BACKGROUND AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
National Conference & Exhibition on Transporting Students
The first National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschool Transportation Workshop convened in 1992 in Dallas, TX. The goal was to better integrate the members of the team who must work together to fulfill the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The focus was that transporters, special educators and occupational and physical therapists had to begin to work more closely together to meet the spirit and the letter of the law.
The idea to pair the conference with a Preschool Transportation Workshop came from far-sighted personnel at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, IN. As the population of preschool children riding yellow buses increased, preschool issues were integrated into the main body of the conference and in 2000 the conference title changed to reflect that inclusion.
One result of the 1992 conference, considered a triumph at the time, was that conferees secured a commitment from members of the wheelchair manufacturing industry that they would begin to work with, not shirk from, the student transportation community on the issue of safe seating on school buses. Representatives of two major wheelchair manufacturers sat at the same table with school transportation representatives and created a committee to meet on matters related to safe transportation of students who use mobility devices. That committee meeting led to the effort undertaken by the International Standards Organization and its ANSI/RESNA subcommittee, resulting in the creation of theWC-19, a voluntary standard for a transport wheelchair adopted in 2000.
During the 2nd National Conference in Atlanta, GA in 1993 more inroads were made into integrating transporters, special educators and therapists as the number of attendees increased in the latter two categories. The issue of safe seating for infants and toddlers was a growing issue for the group at this time. The conference was working more closely with personnel from Riley Hospital for Children, a relationship that continues to this day.
In 1994, the 3rd National Conference in Indianapolis, IN was the forum for the organizational meeting of the ANSI/RESNA Subcommittee on Wheelchairs and Transportation. That group set a goal of providing guidelines by May 1995 for manufacturers who choose to design wheelchairs that can be certified as safe for use as seats on a motor vehicle. Although it took another five years, that goal has been achieved. The subcommittee's work continues in related areas.
An additional important outcome of the 1994 conference in Indianapolis was the invitation of the U.S. Department of Education to key members of the school transportation community to discuss their issues as part of the reauthorization of IDEA. Never before had transporters been asked to give input to this law.
With the issue of transportable wheelchairs in the hands of the ANSI/RESNA panel and the subcommittees that were preparing for the 1995 National Standards conference for School Buses, the 4th National Conference, held in Mesa, AZ in 1995, turned to other pressing matters.
An emerging area of interest - one that had been growing each year at the conference - was to create a more formal way for occupational and physical therapists to interact with school transporters and the other members of the special related services team.
This was accomplished through the OT/PT/Transporter Forum, which set goals for bringing school therapists and transporters into closer relationships. The Forum has met annually as part of the conference since that time. During its 1998 session, a committee was formed to produce a document, "Recommended Practices for Safe Boarding." Published in 1999, the document is an excellent tool for use in driver training classes, by school occupational and/or physical therapists, and by transportation supervisors and directors. It serves as a companion document to a parent handbook, and is a valuable resource during an IEP meeting where transportation is discussed.
In March 1996 in Birmingham, AL conferees were brought up to the minute on the progress toward the development of standards for transportable wheelchairs with a pre-conference workshop on Wheelchair Transportation Safety, conducted by university researchers involved in the process. Child safety seats, a major concern nationally by this date, were a primary focus of the Preschool Transportation Workshop. Therapists began talking about a framework for training an "OT/PT technician" who would liaison with transporters.
The conference program acknowledged an emerging need for more information on training bus attendants, keeping proper documentation, and working more effectively with multicultural students with disabilities.
During the 6th National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities in Tulsa, OK in 1997 conferees aired concerns of some therapists and transporters about seat inserts and other gaps that remained in the development of standards for a transportable wheelchair. Perhaps more importantly, the need for travel training was broached in a general session with JoLeta Reynolds of the federal Office of Special Education Programs. Several months after the meeting, Congress passed the IDEA Amendments of 1997. Those amendments incorporated a reference to travel training for special needs students - a direct outcome of communication between conferees and federal officials during the Tulsa meeting.
The Tulsa meeting is now famous as the birthplace of the National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo. Having just completed a breakout session on a state special needs roadeo, Ted Finlayson Schuler of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (recognizing the enthusiasm of the group for the idea) asked if the Conference would consider holding a national event.
In 1998 duirng the 7th national conferencer, in Orlando, FL, the first National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo was held in conjunction with the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute of Syracuse, NY. This event offers drivers and attendant teams an opportunity to learn, practice and fine-tune skills in a competitive environment.
Baltimore, MD was the site for the 8th National Conference in 1999, which featured a companion workshop on Safe Seating Practices for Preschoolers and Users of Mobility devices. Among presenters were representatives of the major mobility device manufacturers: Freedom Designs, Invacare Corp., Convaid Products, and Sunrise Medical. Our scope of attendees broadened, with representatives from Canada and some offshore areas. And our character attendance is reflecting the success of the team goal - more and more school systems are sending teams of people to the conference.
We returned to Florida in 2000 for the 9th annual conference and 3rd National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo. With the nation reflecting on a number of incidents of violence in its public schools, we offered a companion Workshop on Security on the School Bus: Behavior, Intervention and Response. Within the main conference our discussions reached out to make a difference for children throughout the world, with conferees arriving from Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, European national and Asian countries in addition to 43 of the United States. For the first time, the conference presented awards for winning special transportation manuals, recognized by a three-judge panel as making a positive systemic impact on transportation of students with disabilities through their publication and distribution.
The 10th National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities and the Preschool Population, moving West to Phoenix, AZ for 2001, expanded it scope with several substantial additions.
We begin to discuss the growing Charter School movement, focusing on their practices with regard to students with special needs; and we initiated the Workshop on IEP Team Building for Related Services Delivery. The National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo had its largest enrollment to date. In addition, thanks to the sponsorship by Thomas Built Buses, roadeo drivers and attendants had the opportunity for off-course professional development in a half-day session titled 3Rs for Drivers and Attendants: Rules, Rights and Responsibilities. Transporters and therapists met informally in a Chat Room (prior to the OT/PT/Transporter Forum) to talk about professional issues of concern.
In 2002 during the 11th National Conference in Fort Worth, TX, an issue of considerable importance was safe transportation for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Much of our interest focused on the vest issue, still unresolved at NHTSA. We were pleased that the conference venue was chosen to pilot the NHTSA curriculum on child safety seats on school buses, involving certified child passenger safety technicians and instructors led by NHTSA's Susan Kirinich.
The 12th National Conference, in 2003, returned to Indianapolis, IN and to the home of Riley Hospital for Children whose caring professionals have blazed the way to safe transportation of infants, toddlers and preschool children. Child safety seating on school buses, the growing populations of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and recent federal legislation on No Child Left Behind topped our agenda of concerns that year. New challenges were handed to transporters with NCLB and the McKinney-Vento Act, which addresses breaking down of barriers to educational opportunities for children who are homeless.
Significantly the conference was chosen by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services as the launching ground for a Privacy Issues Paper which it produced in conjunction with Peggy Burns, Esq., nationally recognized school system attorney and member of the tenured faculty of the conference. The Paper builds the authoritative case and legal basis for transporters to gain access to medical information that is significant to safe pupil transportation.
Back in Atlanta, GA after 11 years, the 13th National Conference (March 5-10, 2004) continued its work in the midst of an economy that has been unfriendly to school system personnel. Under the theme of "The Tough Get Going," the conference focused on helping school transportation professionals keep to their goals of safe transportation for the nation's students. New in 2004 was a hands-on evacuation training session. Significantly, the interest in transit wheelchairs was more evident that ever before, with attendance overflowing the 7 a.m. session held on that topic.
In addition to two pre-conference workshops, a day-long Executive Briefing on Pupil Transportation Law and Compliance was conducted by Peggy Burns, Esq. NHTSA's Susan Kirinich presented Certificates of Attendance to more than 125 people who practiced its Curriculum on Child Safety Seating. The Autism Workshop was expanded to an all-day session with instructor Jocelyn Taylor offering the Social Stories training in the afternoon segment.
In recognition of the conference as a significant venue for special needs transporters, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services "worked with NHTSA to coordinate the issuance of its Final Rule on Safety Harnesses to coincide with the opening of the conference," as a NASDPTS letter to us affirmed.
The conference adjourned, with the 14th National Conference scheduled March 11-16, 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona; the 15th National Conference scheduled for March 3-8, 2006 in Orlando, Florida and the 16th National Conference scheduled March 9-14, 2007 in Louisville, Kentucky.
The conference and its related activities are sponsored Edupro Group, LLC. Edupro Group offers conference, workshops and exhibitions for education services professionals.
For further information on the conference contact Roseann Schwaderer at Edupro Group, LLC, P.O. Box 6053, McLean VA 22106. Conference@eduprogroup.com or
Best Practices for Pupil Transportation Annually in March Since 1992