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Improving car transport for children with disabilities

Special purpose car seats

Special purpose car seats are used by some children with disabilities and medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy and autism, who are unable to travel in ‘off the shelf’ seats.

They offer an extensive range of features and optional accessories not available on Australian standard car seats, and also cater for older and larger children. For example, this could include extra postural support, anti-escape options, or swivel bases to help parents with getting children in and out of the car.

Independent information

All special purpose car seats available in Australia comply with an overseas standard or regulation, but until now, there has been no independent evaluation program of these products in Australia – or globally.

This has left so many families facing a concerning lack of information as they try to choose a safe and reliable car seat that meets their child’s needs.

The Australian Safety Assessment Program

At MACA, we launched the world-first Australian Safety Assessment Program (AuSAP) to change this.

AuSAP was established with funding from the Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and in-kind support from Britax Childcare and Neuroscience Research Australia, while industry donated special purpose car seats for testing.

Through AuSAP, we have now completed 54 sled-crash tests on 15 different special purpose car seats to assess their strengths and limitations when it comes to safety.

The car seats were assessed against selected criteria from Australia’s rigorous child restraint standard – the same standard that ‘off the shelf’ car seats must comply with here.

National product register

We have used the findings to launch a national product register of special purpose car seats, where, for the first time, families and the allied health professionals who support them can find independent safety information about each product.

Eight of the 15 special purpose car seats that were tested have been published on the national product register.

Where a product has not been included, MACA works with the overseas manufacturer to encourage them to make changes to meet the AuSAP Test and Assessment Protocol and resubmit for testing.

'Life-changing' support

Not only will AuSAP provide families with more independent safety information, but it will also help to improve product design, safety and increase the range of products available in Australia.

We’ve already heard stories of families being able to access new products in Australia thanks to AuSAP – including Werribee mum Sandy, who hadn’t been able to find a suitable car seat for her son Ashton.

Ashton's occupational therapist assessed his needs and prescribed a special purpose car seat, the Hero-NXT (with swivel base), which has recently been introduced into Australia as a result of the establishment of MACA and AuSAP.

"It will be life-changing,” Sandy said.

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We pay respect to the Traditional Custodians of all lands, past, present & future. Honouring all Elders and nurturing all young people.