Wheelchair users urge proper sidewalk clearing after Saskatchewan snowstorm

Many Saskatchewan residents were stuck at home earlier this week after an intense snowstorm left hip-high snowdrifts in its wake. 

Some people trudged through the snow and dug out their vehicles, but a Saskatoon woman who uses a wheelchair still hasn’t left her house.

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Residential streets to be cleared as Saskatoon continues cleanup from snowstorm

“When snow isn’t cleared, it is so dangerous for people with disabilities,” Tasnim Jaisee told Global News.

“I couldn’t imagine living alone right now and … wondering, ‘How am I going to get food tomorrow?’”

Snow-covered sidewalks can prevent people with limited mobility from getting to work or medical appointments, said Bill Lehne, board president for Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan.

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“These exceptional circumstances of the weather really play havoc on our daily lives,” Lehne said in an interview.

“(Using) a manual wheelchair in this weather when cars are getting stuck is virtually impossible.”

Saskatoon was walloped with more than 30 cm of snow on the weekend. Lehne said it’s crucial snow gets cleared quickly and properly.

Tips for shovelling

After it snows, the city requires businesses shovel their walks within 24 hours, while residents have 48 hours. Paths cleared should be at least 1.2 metres wide.

It is crucial sidewalks are smooth and free of snow piles, Jaisee said. Curb ramps should be flush with the road.

Jaisee said she got stuck in a crosswalk two years ago because it hadn’t been shovelled properly.

“That was definitely one of the more scary experiences that I’ve had moving independently within the city,” she said.

Bill Lehne and Tasnim Jaisee say snow-covered sidewalks are a barrier for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

<span class="c-caption__desc"><br /> Bill Lehne and Tasnim Jaisee say snow-covered sidewalks are a barrier for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. </span><br /> <cite class="c-caption__cite"><br /> Global News / Via Zoom </cite><br />

Parking lots, particularly accessible parking spots, also need to be cleared quickly and effectively, Lehne said.

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“I have a big truck. I can go through snow,” he said. “If that snow path is two feet to get to my truck, my big truck is useless.”

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Monctonian doesn’t let wheelchair stop him from using snow blower to clear his driveway

Jaisee said accessibility is a problem every winter, so she’d like to see the city promote proper path clearing far before it snows.

“Helping hands go such a long way to making the lives of people with disabilities and wheelchair users a lot easier,” Jaisee said.

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