I am writing this letter, sitting at my computer, as I am completely appalled by the story I just heard from my father about what happened to him today.
My father has multiple sclerosis and is unable to move any part of his body from the neck down. He spends his entire day in a power wheelchair that he drives with his chin.
As you can imagine, there aren’t many things that he can do to fill his days, but he does enjoy going for walks (rolls) throughout our area of Red Deer County when the weather is nice.
It was on one of these outings that my father had a rather upsetting experience involving one of Red Deer County’s policemen.
My dad and his nurse were using the road as there are no sidewalks or paths in our area when a police cruiser came up behind them flashing the lights and used the loudspeaker to advise my father to stop, which he did.
Once the policeman got out of his car he proceeded to stand behind my father and chastise him for driving his wheelchair on the road.
My father explained to the police officer that he can’t move anything from the neck down and can’t even turn his head to look at him.
My father asked him to stand in front so he could see him while he was talking. The officer stayed where he was, standing behind my father while he explained to him rather rudely that it was illegal for him to drive his wheelchair down the road.
My dad was confused. He has been driving his wheelchair up and down the roads around our house for several years and has never once had any issues with the police cars that often drive by. If it’s not illegal for people to walk down the street or ride their bicycles down the street, how can it possibly be illegal for someone to use a wheelchair down the street?
Once my father relayed this story to me, I decided to do some investigating online. From what I could find out on the Internet, a person in a wheelchair is classed as a pedestrian so can go wherever a pedestrian is allowed to go.
Legally, a pedestrian should use sidewalks or pathways, but when no such options are available, they are allowed to use the side of the road, which is where my father was driving his wheelchair.
There aren’t even any shoulders on the road leading up to Leon’s Furniture, which is where my father was driving.
Perhaps the police officer was annoyed that the wheelchair might disrupt the flow of traffic, but that doesn’t make it illegal. And even if driving a wheelchair down the road did happen to be illegal, the officer could have used some common courtesy by looking my dad in the eye while talking to him.
People in wheelchairs have the right to be treated respectfully and with dignity, especially by public servants — such as police officers.