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Specialty harnesses and vests

Specialty harnesses and vests are sometimes prescribed for children with disabilities and medical conditions


Specialty harnesses and vests (not part of the child restraint) are a postural support accessory designed for people with disabilities and medical conditions, including behaviours of concern. Some specialty harnesses/vests include features to reduce the risk of the person getting out of the vehicle seatbelt.

They may help with:

  • postural support
  • reducing the risk of the person getting out of their vehicle restraint
  • medical transport
  • bus transport.

Specialty harnesses and vests must always be used with the vehicle seatbelt, with some products requiring the vehicle seatbelt to be “converted” into a lap-style seatbelt.

Important information: As children do not generally achieve good vehicle seatbelt fit until they are 10-12 years of age, where suitable a child should travel in a child restraint system that is appropriate for their size and needs. MACA's national product register includes a list of the Australian standard car seats more commonly used by children with disabilities and medical conditions, and special purpose car seats.

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Until recently there was no Australian standard for specialty harnesses and vests. A new standard, AS 5384: Accessories for seat belts used in motor vehicles, was published in September 2023. This standard includes requirements for postural support accessories (e.g., specialty harnesses/vests) and outlines minimum requirements for design, crash testing, and information requirements (e.g., instructions for use and labelling).

This new standard provides suppliers in the Australian market with an opportunity to develop and supply products that comply with this new standard.

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New research project

Findings from our national survey identified that specialty harnesses/vests are one of the most prescribed products for transporting children with disabilities, despite the lack of standards and research in this area.

There is a clear need to understand why and how specialty harnesses/vests are used, including their compatibility with different vehicle types, vehicle standards and road laws.

To address these gaps, MACA is leading a two year Austroads project, in partnership with The George Institute for Global Health, to research and investigate specialty harnesses/vests for both Australia and New Zealand.

The project will also deliver expert safety recommendations for the use of specialty harnesses/vests in motor vehicles.

This research is expected to be completed mid-2024.

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