Feb 24, 2020

One not so handy ride

Fresno Area Express (FAX) is our city’s public transportation system. The aptly named FAX has more than 100 buses and 20 different routes to take passengers where they need to go, with arrivals at the stops every 15 to 30 minutes.

FAX also offers, in compliance with Federal regulations, Handy Ride, established in 1975. It’s a separate system designed specifically for the needs of Fresno’s disabled citizens. This system operates smaller white buses, vans and cars throughout our city. This special service even allows passengers to call and arrange for pick-up reservations, at discounted fares.

However, this level of accommodation, which is rare to find in a government-run entity, isn’t enough for one individual.

Local reporter Gene Haagenson ran a story last Wednesday on how Randy Frost, a 500-pound wheelchair-confined man, was denied reissue of his Handy Ride pass for being too heavy. Frost’s wheelchair weighs about 200 pounds, and with him in it, the total weight exceeds the limits of Handy Ride bus wheelchair lifts by about 100 pounds.

The problem is that FAX allowed him to use its services for the past three years, even though his weight has not changed. Bending the rules out of kindness is not always such a good idea. Now that FAX is beginning to enforce its weight limit rules for the lifts, Frost feels as though he is being discriminated against.

“I’m being restricted simply because I’m bigger than everyone else,” Frost said. “I’m being limited because of my weight.”

FAX clearly states the rules and regulations for this service in its Handy Ride guidelines, found on its Web site. A section regarding wheelchairs states that standard wheelchairs, measuring certain standard dimensions, are allowed on the lifts of Handy Ride buses as long as they do “not weigh more than 600 pounds when occupied.”

One might come to realize and accept the fact that they may be too heavy for the wheelchair lifts on Handy Ride buses, right? Wrong.

Frost made a suggestion of his own to solve the problem. “I would use my cane, stand on the lift and get on the bus and they would put my chair on behind me.”

There’s a word that comes to mind when I visualize this potentially dangerous scene. The word is “liability.”

I cannot imagine taking the chance of allowing a 500-pound man to stand on a wheelchair lift with his cane, only to have him lose his balance and fall, creating an injury the city certainly cannot afford. There aren’t any handrails on those lifts, Mr. Frost. It’s not an escalator at the mall or a people-mover at the airport. The lifts are specifically made for people to sit in their chairs and be lifted inside the bus.

Further on in Haagenson’s story, Frost said he feels as though the city is just looking for excuses to keep him and others like him off the buses.

Yep, that’s the Handy Ride’s goal, all right. The city-provided transportation system, specifically designed for the disabled, prides itself in discriminating against its passengers. Give me a break.

Instead of complaining about how FAX has “wronged” you, and threatening to take the complaint to court, scan through a phone book to find alternative sources of transportation, Mr. Frost. Be handy.

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