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Ban ends, and he's got a ticket to ride
George Lewis found a way to get back on the FRED bus and to get "his freedom back"

 FRED driver Louis Williams uses a lift to help George Lewis board at the Fredericksburg Shopping Center.
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Date published: 1/5/2013

By CATHY DYSON

It took more than a year, but George Lewis found a way to get himself--and his hefty wheelchair--back on FRED buses.

He and officials at the disAbility Resource Center in Fredericksburg spent months studying Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. They learned that guidelines have changed since summer 2011, when Lewis was told he couldn't ride anymore because he and his chair were too heavy for the FREDericksburg Regional Transit system.

Lewis and others found new ADA regulations, which had been passed in October 2011. They said buses had to transport passengers in wheelchairs of any size--as long as the combined weight doesn't exceed 800 pounds and the bus lifts could handle them.

Lewis shared his findings with FRED officials last month. He also sent a photo of him and his chair on a scale, with the reading of 704 pounds. His chair is so heavy because it's motorized, and Lewis carries several batteries with him.

FRED officials agreed that Lewis was entitled to ride again. They thanked him for the information and sent him 17 fare cards.

"I'm glad it went down the way it did," said Lewis, 45, who was born with cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. "I wasn't about to give up. I knew there had to be some way."

Officials at the disability center praised FRED's willingness to work with disabled riders--and Lewis' persistence.

"I told George he was the Rosa Parks in this situation," said Shawn Lawrence, a community action specialist with the center. "He was denied, but he didn't give up, he fought through it. And because he did, this will make a difference, not only for him, but for somebody else down the road."

'HAS HIS FREEDOM BACK'

Getting down the road has been Lewis' focus, most of his adult life. He grew up with his parents in Spotsylvania County, and his mother was his primary caretaker until she died in 2002.

Then, Lewis had to move into an assisted-living facility, and he missed his independence. He longed for the chance to get on the bus again and go shopping at Spotsylvania Towne Centre or local Walmart stores.


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INSPIRATION is an occasional series about people who encourage others with their kindness, courage or perseverance.