Laurens teen with MS may get fined for using his wheelchair on the city sidewalk

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

A 14-year-old boy who has muscular dystrophy may be fined for riding his motorized wheelchair on streets and walks.

Laurens Police Chief Rod Watkins said Bryce Wiley is breaking the law and will be fined $15 for each violation if the riding doesn't stop.

Wiley said he will defy the chief's order and will continue to ride his wheelchair to the park, the grocery store and to football games on Friday nights.

"The chair is his legs," said Bryce's father, Mike. "I just wish they'd leave him alone."

Watkins said he's only looking out for Bryce.

"I don't want to write this kid a ticket. I want him to have his freedom," he said. "But I also understand what the law says."

Watkins said he almost hit Wiley a couple of weeks ago when Wiley turned left on a city street. "I'm concerned about his safety," Watkins said.

Sylvia Piper, executive director for Iowa Protection and Advocacy Services, said Laurens officials seem to be misinterpreting state law and ignoring provisions of the American with Disabilities Act.

"Just when you think you've heard it all," Piper said. "This child is really being discriminated against in a major way by the city."

Pocahontas County Attorney Ann Beneke sent a letter last week to the Wileys explaining the law.

"This type of vehicle cannot be driven on the streets and highways of the state of Iowa by anyone," she said in the letter.

Mike Wiley said many sidewalks in Laurens aren't wheelchair accessible.

The Wileys added a flag, blinking red lights, reflective tape and a flashlight to their to their son's wheelchair, but Watkins said it's not enough and wants the riding to stop.

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