Phillip Rides the Bus

Yesterday, Phillip successfully rode the bus on the campus of the University of West Georgia in Carrollton. After living on campus for two years, it had been a struggle for him to use his power chair and take advantage of the campus shuttle system.

It really was the result of the Person Centered Planning (PCP) meeting that encouraged Phillip to consistently drive his power chair on the campus bus to get places. The PCP group members had agreed that Phillip needed to learn how to use mass transportation better, so he can achieve his dream of living in his own home or apartment, when he leaves UWG. The college campus is the perfect setting for him to learn this skill.

Unknown to us, Phillip had neglected his power chair for several reasons. First, Phillip is fortunate that he can walk short distances and uses a walker to get around his dorm area and class buildings. It was just easier. At other times, it was more convenient for him to ride in his caregiver’s car and get to class. Secondly, there were problems with his power chair. His chair scraped the bottom of the wheelchair ramps, and the bus drivers said they didn’t want him ruining their lifts. When technicians had previously examined the chair, Phillip and his caregiver were told the power chair was not meant to be driven outside. We were shocked. Since things seemed to be going well at the University of West Georgia, this problem did not get revealed, until the PCP meeting.

For people who use a power chairs, at times they seem like living with another person. The chairs have their own complexities, personalities, need for extra space and are pretty high maintenance. So we went back to Mobility Designs, the company that sold us the chair, and questioned the technicians’ assessment that Phillip’s chair was not meant to be driven outdoors. Prior to purchasing this chair, Phillip worked with a physical therapist to write a prescription for the chair. The main reason for getting the power chair was for him to be able to drive it outdoors, especially around a college campus.

After a few phones calls, we got another Mobility
Designs technician on campus to examine the problems. Fortunately, he said the chair was an “outdoor chair. “ It just needed some intense adjustments so that Phillip could ride the campus bus, without scraping the lifts and irritating the drivers. On Friday, Phillip practiced his skills with renewed confidence. He said he can get on the bus pretty easily, but navigating the crowds of students and getting off at the correct stop are going to take more practice. But these steps are critical to helping him have greater freedom and independence when he strives to live on his own. Practice on the UWG campus is a wonderful opportunity.

It is clear that the PCP has helped steer Phillip to work on what he can, so that he can be as included and live in his community as he chooses. Next step…working with a social skills coach to help enrich and deepen his friendships.