City buses in Fredericksburg, Virginia are fitted with wheelchair lifts to enable people in wheelchairs to use the public transportation. Fredericksburg resident George Lewis had been traveling by FRED buses to go to local shopping centers and Wal-Mart. However, in 2011, George was told that he could no longer ride the bus anymore.
The reasoning for George’s exclusion was he and his wheelchair were too heavy to ride buses that were part of the Fredericksburg Regional Transit system. It took over a year, but George is back happily riding the FRED buses like he used to.
George Lewis, 45, was born with cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair all his life. After his mother passed away in 2002, George was moved to an assisted living facility. After 9 years, he finally found a group home he could enter and moved to Fredericksburg in 2011. After a nurse helps him get dressed and eat in the morning, he is off on his own. Being able to take the bus to places gave George a sense of freedom.
After being banned from the bus, George spent months doing research on the Americans with Disabilities Act. He learned that the regulations had changed since he was banned and that under ADA regulations buses had to transport passengers in wheelchairs of any size, as long as the combined weight does not exceed 800 pounds and the bus’s wheelchair lift could handle them. After finding this out, George sent FRED official a photo of him and his wheelchair on a scale weighing in at 704 pounds, making him well under the limit. His chair is motorized and carries several batteries, accounting for much of that weight.
The FRED officials agreed that George was able to use the bus service again. George is the most courteous rider, understanding that his presence on the bus can inconvenient for other passengers. It takes him 15 minutes to board the bus and he always apologizes to the other passengers for it. Even though it is not required, George does call the bus dispatcher to let them know that a wheelchair bound passenger would be waiting at the bus stop when he needs a ride.
Thankfully George is back to being able to travel around town via the public transportation. While it may take a bit longer because of George, it is only fair that everyone is able to use the public service. The wheelchair lifts are on the buses for a reason and it means the world to someone like George.