Disabled teen, family fighting for right to use device to walk around Judson ISD campus

District says device is safety hazard

By Bill Barajas - Reporter

LIVE OAK, Texas - A disabled teen and his family are fighting for his right to use a device that helps him walk while on campus at Veterans Memorial High School.

In the last couple of months, Ryan Dickerson, 19, has been restricted to his wheelchair. But his family says he’s been a fighter his entire life.

“He was the victim of a birth injury. During that birth injury, he lost more than 65 percent of (his) brain and that doesn't mean that the remainder works perfectly,” said Daniel Dickerson, Ryan Dickerson’s father. “He has a lot of developmental disabilities. Obviously, he has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, refractory epilepsy. He has cortical visual impairment. He's non-verbal. He can't walk. His list of challenges is very long.”

Despite the challenges, Ryan Dickerson is now facing a different battle.

“If you've ever been trapped in a chair for any length of time, you know how painful that is, and, essentially, they are trapping him in his chair for eight hours a day now," Daniel Dickerson said.

The high school junior uses a Therapeutic Ambulatory Orthotic System, or TAOS, to walk. The issue, the district says, is that he’s outgrown it both in height and weight, and it’s become a safety concern.

“If you talk to the manufacturer, that manufacturer will tell you that that is outside the safety specifications of usage of that piece of equipment,” said Steve Linscomb, Judson Independent School District spokesman.

The Dickersons acquired a letter from the manufacturer, Sky Medical, saying in part, “We reviewed Ryan’s measurements and evaluation form at the time of the last order. We also had conversations from the TAOS provider and together we concluded an exception to the recommended height and weight.”

Judson ISD said the letter is not enough.

“Our attorneys have talked to us about that, and there is an unsigned letter and it's not specific to this particular student’s specifications in terms of height,” Linscomb said.

The Dickersons said they will be at a Jan. 25 school board meeting to further make their case. The district said it’s open to finding a solution.

Judson ISD said it was not able to go into further detail about the case due to pending litigation and confidential student information.

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