Lawmakers Offer Bill To Allow Teens To Use Wheelchairs On
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 16, 2004
DES MOINES, IOWA--State lawmakers want to make sure that you are not violating the law if you use a motorized wheelchair on city streets or sidewalks in Iowa.
Under current Iowa law, it is illegal for people under the age of 16 to operate "electric mobility devices" on sidewalks or bike paths. State law also does not allow for using wheelchairs in city streets.
Eighteen Iowa senators have offered legislation that would eliminate the age restriction and expand the definition of an "electric personal assistive mobility device" to include an electric wheelchair or motorized scooter designed for people with disabilities. It would also allow local officials to decide whether to allow such devices to be used on city streets or rural highways.
The new legislation was proposed in response to the arrest last October of 14-year-old Bryce Wiley in the small town of Lauren. Local police imposed a $15 fine on Wiley, who has muscular dystrophy, for riding his motorized wheelchair in the streets. His family later learned that the law also prohibited him from operating his "electric personal assistance mobility device" on sidewalks.
Wiley protested the law and the city's action and took his case to the public.
According to the Des Moines Register, the teenager's case sparked outrage among disability rights advocates across the country. Some pointed out that local authorities were violating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act because the sidewalks in Lauren have no curb cuts.
"I never realized that it was a problem," said Senator Keith Kreiman who co-sponsored the new bill. "I didn't realize that the current status of the law could be interpreted to keep this boy from using his wheelchair."
"I really think this is a case where the local people probably could have worked within the existing framework," Kreiman told the Register. "But since they didn't, and since it's possible that other communities may have problems, we can change the law and not only help this individual, but perhaps others."