For 40 years, Ricon Corp. has been designing, manufacturing and installing wheelchair lifts and ramps for a variety of vehicles, including school buses.
Currently, Ricon offers two series of lifts for the school bus market: the S Series and the K Series. These lifts are lightweight, and both come equipped with the company's patented interlocked occupant restraint belt; the K Series — also called KlearVue — provides an unobstructed view through the bus' windows due to its folding platform design.
To learn more about Ricon's wheelchair lifts for the school bus industry, SBF spoke with Tony Ward, sales manager for Ricon.
Lifts have a 'safety zone'
Safety is a No. 1 priority for Ricon, Ward says.
"Our lifts feature what we call a Ricon safety zone, which encapsulates the passenger on the lift's platform before they ever leave the ground," Ward explains.
The safety zone includes front and rear barriers on the lift platform and 3.75-inch-high barriers on each side of the platform to prevent a mobility device from rolling off the lift.
In addition, the interlocked restraint belt must be secured before the lift will operate.
"A lot of the new wheelchairs have joysticks that are used to move them around. In the lift, if an occupant hits the joystick, that belt will stop them from rolling off the lift," Ward explains.
Operators, technicians need training
When planning to operate a Ricon lift, "make sure that the operators are up-to-date on training," Ward advises. "Making sure that the operators have taken the course and know what they are supposed to be doing is a key component."
"You need to make sure that the equipment is properly maintained by a trained technician," Ward adds. "Ricon offers technician training."
The training for both operators and technicians is available online, as a video or in a live seminar.
During training, attendees become certified to perform all aspects of maintenance for both the S Series and K Series wheelchair lifts. The training also covers basic to advanced maintenance procedures that are intended to increase the life of a lift.
Wheelchairs should be loaded facing outward
Ricon suggests that wheelchairs or mobility devices be loaded facing outward.
"For maximum safety, Ricon requires that passengers always face outward," Ward explains. "This is due to variations in the size and configuration of mobility aids."
For instance, the back of a mobility aid — where the battery is located — is often the heaviest part of the device. For this reason, it should be nearest to the bus.
Ward also urges lift operators to stay on the ground, rather than get on the lift with the occupant.
"The weight limit for the standard lift is 800 pounds," he says. "Depending on what wheelchair or motorized cart you have, they can reach weights of 300 or 400 pounds. And so, depending on the occupant, you really could exceed that limit if you put someone else on the platform."
Many options are available
Ward says the company's K and S Series lifts are available in many platform sizes that can accommodate any size mobility aid.
"You want a safe lift that is going to be easy for the operator to use and easy for the shop to maintain," he says. "Ricon's S and K Series lifts have been a school bus industry standard for 40 years."