Winter should not be life or death for mobility-impaired
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 06:00 am
It’s a rather concerning reality when individuals in our community who lack mobility are left with two bleak options in winter months: they can stay indoors or risk their lives navigating city streets.
A local disability advocate says many individuals relying on their wheels instead of their feet decide to stay at home because ice-caked sidewalks and slippery roads prove too risky.
If individuals are unable to get from one place to another safely, they become dependent on family, friends and community organizations to fulfil their needs, such as going grocery shopping, attending medical appointments or engaging in social activities.
When able-bodied individuals fail to clear roadways, de-ice sidewalks or exercise caution behind the wheel, we effectively strip these individuals’ freedom and independence.
Venturing out onto St. Albert streets proved fatal last week for one senior resident bound to a motorized scooter.
A 68-year-old woman died less than one kilometre from her Ironwood Estates home when a car struck her motorized scooter as she was crossing Bellerose Drive, between St. Albert Centre and Safeway.
Julie Jans was crossing the street in a marked crosswalk around 3 p.m. on Jan. 2 when a westbound vehicle, with a green light, struck her scooter.
Police said it is believed the 65-year-old driver of the car was unable to see Jans in the crosswalk, as a large truck stopped in the lane beside her blocked her view.
Although road conditions may not have been the direct cause of the collision, one can certainly see how winter conditions can contribute to such tragedies.
Perhaps there was a build up of snow transitioning from the sidewalk to the roadway. An able-bodied individual could have walked over this hurdle, but manoeuvring a scooter over the bump could cause a significant delay prior to entering the crosswalk.
Perhaps, if the driver of the car had been able to see the scooter, she would have encountered difficulty coming to a stop on the icy roads.
One woman is dead, but is not too late to learn from the incident and prevent future fatalities.
Navigating streets and sidewalks caked in ice is hard enough when one is able-bodied and equipped with the appropriate winter gear.
Throw into the mix a physical disability that leaves one bound to a wheelchair or perhaps even sore joints that seize up when exposed to cold winter air and you are going to have further problems.
When citizens fail to chip away the ice from their sidewalks, when businesses fail to clear snow from parking lots and when the city fails to adequately clear snow from roadways, the ones who suffer most are individuals with limited mobility.
Without a safe transportation route, these individuals often become prisoners in their own homes.
In a city that prides itself on a sense of community and in a community a high percentage of seniors call home, surely more can be done.
Residents and city administrators must realize the struggles these individuals face and take steps to minimize the risks, whether this means better snow clearing, better resources for disabled residents or more enforcement of snow-clearing bylaws.
This is not a small problem with simple solution, but it is a problem where small steps can have a large impact.
No one should have to decide between being cooped up in his or her home during the many months of an Alberta winter or facing possible injury or death.