My Snow Question for You

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QUESTION: What are you doing about snow removal for your state, county, city, or facility? — Yours Truly

I often talk about the importance of snow removal from public sidewalks and private facilities. Last week I had quite an experience that nearly prevented me from attending a meeting, to which I had traveled more than 150 miles. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, I was finally able to reach my destination.

The sidewalks were my first problem

I had to travel almost three blocks from the parking garage to the state office building where the meeting was located. Segments of the sidewalks were maintained by different establishment owners, so the sidewalk conditions varied according to the approach taken by each owner. Some of the sidewalks were shoveled completely from side to side, so a wheelchair user or even someone with a child’s stroller could easily navigate them. Other owners only shoveled a narrow path for an individual to put one foot in front of the other to continue. Those using wheelchairs etc. were forced to travel through the snow, slush, and ice.

By the way, I was going up a steep hill, which adds to the difficulty. Plus, my service dog had to sidestep me as my wheelchair slid from side to side while I pushed through the mess.

Then I got to the corner
In accordance with Murphy’s Law, I ended up at the only corner where the snow was not removed (see pictures). The snow was too deep for me to get through. Fortunately, a tall young man approached and I asked him to help me find a location where I could get to the street from the sidewalk. Yes, he was wonderful! About 100 feet up the connecting sidewalk, he found an area where we might be able to make it.

And then we struggled
However, there was snow on the street next to the curb, extending out about 2 feet or so. Even with as strong as the young man was, I was stuck! I had to leave my chair and get onto my knees next to the control side, hoping that without my weight we could advance the chair. But it wouldn’t move. (Did I mention that it was 17 degrees F? My knees were planted in the snow for about 5 minutes while we tried to get my wheelchair onto the street. I had no knee pads for extra protection.)

Then, a wonderful woman came running from across the street to assist. She lifted the front of my chair while the man pushed, and I controlled the joystick to allow the chair to move.

Throughout all of this, my service dog Maddie was anxious because I was out of my chair and on the opposite side of the wheelchair from her. She kept trying to get to me, which meant she kept getting in the way of the woman helping me.

We finally got onto the street!
All I could do was give each of my rescuers a heartfelt hug. I continued traveling down the street until I could cross to the portion of the sidewalk where the snow was cleared from the curb ramp. By the way, I reported my issues to the director of the offices where my meeting was held; by the time I needed to use the ramp again, the snow was cleared.

I only wish I had taken a video of the complete adventure. What a teaching tool it would be! However, it was too cold for me to expose my iPhone for the half-hour it took to reach my destination. Normally it would have taken me about 5 minutes.

What have you done to educate your snow-removal staff, contractors, and owners about the importance of thorough snow removal? Do you have anyone checking the main, public-use districts to be sure the removal has been completed properly? Have you made public service announcements about the importance of sidewalk snow removal that is thorough (wide) enough for everyone’s usage? Send me a message and let me know!

The curb ramp across the street is well shoveled. The one I am at, is not.

 

Like several paths on the sidewalks that day, the path at this curb ramp is hardly wide enough for even a pedestrian to pass through.

 

This angle shows the other side of the street curb ramp, which is also shoveled.

 
 

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About the Blogger

Michele Ohmes

thumbnail image Michele S. Ohmes is an Americans with Disabilities Act specialist and wheelchair user who works with public works departments, facility managers, and contractors. Her design manual — ADA and Accessibility: Let's Get Practical — is available on CD-ROM through the American Public Works Association's Web site. Author's note: Michele & Associates does not render legal advice and has no enforcement authority regarding the ADA or other federal disability-rights legislation.