Independent Mobility Systems, Inc.
4100 West Piedras St.
Farmington, NM 87401
Dear Mr. Burgess:
This responds to your letter of May 18, 1995 to this office and your telephone conversations with Walter Myers of my staff on June 14 and 27, 1995, concerning an exclusion in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 206, Door locks and door retention components. The standard excludes from its requirements doors equipped with wheelchair lifts and either a visual or audible alarm system.
You state that your company converts minivans into wheelchair accessible vehicles by lowering the floor and adding a wheelchair ramp to the right rear side sliding door area, with an audible and/or visual alarm. The issue you raise is whether FMVSS No. 206's exclusion of wheelchair-equipped doors also excludes a ramp-equipped door. The answer is no.
FMVSS No. 206 requires that side doors leading directly into a compartment containing one or more seating positions must conform to the standard. However, paragraph S4 of the standard states:
[S]ide doors equipped with wheelchair lifts and which are linked to an alarm system consisting of either a flashing visual signal located in the driver's compartment or an alarm audible to the driver which is activated when the door is open, need not conform to this standard.
FMVSS No. 206 was amended to add the wheelchair lift exception by final rule dated March 27, 1985 (50 FR 12029, copy enclosed). The agency's rationale was that when not in use, wheelchair lifts are stowed in a vertical position parallel to and in close proximity to the interior surface of the vehicle door, thus providing a barrier to occupant ejection if the door opened while the vehicle was in motion or in the event of a crash. The alarm requirement was intended to alert the driver to a door that was open on a vehicle that was in motion.
While the information you provided us showed that your wheelchair ramp is also stowed in a vertical position parallel to and in close proximity to the door and that you install audible and/or visual alarms for the driver, wheelchair lifts and wheelchair ramps are distinctly different components. Although they serve the same purpose and are similarly configured when in the stowed position, this agency cannot by interpretation say that "lift" includes "ramp." In order to amend the standard to exclude wheelchair ramps as well as lifts, rulemaking action would be required. You may petition this agency to do rulemaking, under 49 CFR Part 552 (copy enclosed). This agency will entertain your petition and decide whether a rulemaking proceeding is appropriate.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or need any additional information, please feel free to contact Mr. Myers at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel
Enclosures (2) 1985 final rule Part 552