General information for allied health professionals
There are a range of vehicle restraint options and products used by children with disabilities, including special purpose car seats and harnesses/vests, which may include features aimed at preventing the child from getting out of their vehicle seat, restricting a child’s freedom of movement.
Australia is committed to reducing and eliminating restrictive practices and promoting the rights and inherent dignity of people with disability.
There has been significant research and advancements in the design, standards and safety of seatbelts and child restraint systems used in motor vehicles. These safety measures are recognised in road laws which require all vehicle occupants to use a seatbelt or child restraint system. However, there has not been the same level of research and development into devices and vehicle restraint options that children with disabilities and medical conditions may use when travelling in motor vehicles.
There is an urgent need for devices and products designed for the specific needs of children with disabilities, particularly relating to behaviours of concern. In response, many devices and products have been developed, however many do not meet standards and have not been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. This impacts the human rights of children with disability to safe transport and has implications relating to restrictive practice.
Significant work is underway in Australia to address the gaps, which should - in the longer term - reduce and eliminate the restrictive practice implications for children with disabilities when travelling in motor vehicles.
Restrictive practice defined
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (the Commission) defines restrictive practice as: any practice or intervention that has the effect of restricting the rights or freedom of movement of a person with disability.
Restrictive practices must only be used in response to a child with disability’s behaviour of concern with the aim of protecting the child or others from harm. They should not be used as a first response, or as a substitute for adequate supervision.
In some cases, behaviours of concern can be managed with therapeutic, less restrictive supports, such as supervision, prompting, education and routine.
Regulated restrictive practice
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is responsible for the regulation and oversight of certain restrictive practices, whilst states and territories are responsible for authorising the use of regulated restrictive practices.
The NDIS Restrictive Practices and Behaviour Support Rules 2018 (Behaviour Support Rules) apply to all registered NDIS providers who use restrictive practices in the course of delivering NDIS supports. The rules set out conditions relating to the regulation of specified restrictive practices, including:
- chemical restraint
- physical restraint
- environmental restraint
- mechanical restraint.
The NDIS Behaviour Support Rules) defines mechanical restraint as being:
the use of a device to prevent, restrict, or subdue a person’s movement for the primary purpose of influencing a person’s behaviour but does not include the use of devices for therapeutic or non-behavioural purposes.
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission in its Restrictive Practice Guide for Safe Transportation notes that this definition applies to safe transportation.
There are a range of devices, products and strategies that may be prescribed in response to behaviours of concern for children with disability when travelling in motor vehicles. For example, harnesses and vests, buckle covers, child locks on vehicles.
Some devices, products and strategies are considered reasonable measures when used in transportation by the NDIS Commission, and do not require reporting. These products include:
- the use of child locks on vehicles
- seatbelt buckle covers
- dividing screens between the driver and the back seat.
The NDIS Commission provide examples of when the use of a device or product is considered mechanical restraint, and requires reporting, for example:
- the use of a harness in a vehicle to keep a person calm and preventing them from taking off their seatbelt is a mechanical restraint.
- the use of a harness in a vehicle to prevent a person from interfering with other people in the vehicle is a mechanical restraint.
Further information and advice is available from:
You can also visit the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission website or call them on 1800 035 544.