Q’Straint has transitioned its in-person annual wheelchair securement training seminar to a virtual platform to ensure continued education on securement safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Virtual National Training Seminar is an online version of Q’Straint’s Annual National Training Seminar, which it has typically hosted at its facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., each fall. The event had included two days of instruction, not only on the basics of securement that are covered in its online training options, but also on several other topics, such as understanding liability, regulations and best practices, specification writing, and securing difficult wheelchairs. Many of the topics covered in the training were usually only presented during the in-person seminar.
The focus of each lesson was to provide transportation managers with a broad and detailed understanding of all aspects of wheelchair transportation, from how to secure a variety of mobility devices to policies and practices designed to increase passenger safety and reduce transportation liability.
The training was designed for a higher level of learning, geared toward “those able to effect change and influence practices within their organizations,” according to the website. For those at more of a beginner’s level, Q’Straint offers other online training options: a live monthly training webinar and an on-demand course, Securement 101: Basic Wheelchair Securement Training.
The virtual event, which took place from July 13 to 31, drew 1,835 attendees who collectively completed nearly 12,000 lessons. (There was a total of seven school bus and paratransit lessons that made up the seminar, but due to the open access of the seminar, attendees could complete as many or as few as they wanted.)
One of those attendees, Debbie Thomas, a driver trainer for Widefield School District 3 in Colorado Springs, Colo., said that she found the training to be easy to follow and packed with information, and plans to incorporate Q'Straint's webinars into her training department's special-needs training program.
"I encouraged my drivers and monitors to take the classes and I got nothing but great feedback and praise from everyone who participated," Thomas said. "Q'Straint did an amazing job in WTORS [Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint Systems] training, best practice, and understanding laws and regulations."
One key advantage that the virtual seminar has over the in-person version is that it can serve an unlimited number of trainees, Darren Reaume, the national training manager for Q’Straint, told School Bus Fleet.
“Often we would receive 200 to 300 applications, and we typically only had space for 40 to 50 attendees each year,” he explained. “As a result, priority was usually given to districts and transportation providers who hadn’t previously attended or were larger, because we wanted the information covered to positively affect the largest number of students.”
Additionally, some districts wanted to attend but didn’t have funding, despite Q’Straint covering all their expenses except for airfare, Reaume added.
With the virtual training format, that is no longer a hurdle since it is completely open access.
“Any trainer or director from any district — large or small and no matter how well funded — can access the lessons in the seminar,” Reaume said.
There are components of the in-person seminar that cannot be replicated with virtual training, Reaume conceded, such as the four-plus hours of hands-on securement practice, and the chance to network and brainstorm with other leaders in field of school transportation, but the material that is covered in the formal lessons is mostly included in the virtual seminar.
“While it’s difficult to recreate any in-person event online, we’ve made the presentation interactive and have included stories, examples, and feedback from over a dozen members of the Q’Straint/Sure-Lok team as well as dozens of demonstration videos to do our best to bring the training to life,” Reaume said.
The biggest benefit of the training, Reaume added, is that it is comprehensive.
“We try in the seminar to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the transportation of students in wheelchairs,” Reaume said. “As a result, it covers everything from the history of the regulations governing the transportation of students in wheelchairs all the way down to very specific troubleshooting tips for securing some of the most difficult chairs that students are using today — and you can get all that knowledge without ever leaving your couch.”