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Friday, 13 December 2013

Winter Is Back...Now, a Word About Snow and Wheelchair Ramps...

Like so many communities across Canada and the United States, the small town in which I live got a lot of snow this week. A lot of snow. And I'd like to talk a bit about snow and outdoor wheelchair ramps.

Let's start with snow. I don't like snow. I can take being cold. I don't like it (as the many people who've heard me complain about this week can confirm - did I mention that it got really cold this week too?) but I can take it. Snow's another animal.

I still find it difficult to get around when it snows. I've seen that even people my age without disabilities find it difficult to navigate snow. Snow gets deep. Snow hides ice. Snow melts off footwear and leaves the the linoleum floors in the stores wet and slippery, no matter how hard the staff try to keep the floors mopped up and safe for walking.

And snow piles up on wheelchair ramps and then becomes trampled into packed snow and ice, making them not only next to impossible to use (especially for those in a manual chair), but a hazard for anyone using the ramp.

I've talked about this before, but now that winter is truly upon us, it bears repeating.

Wheelchair Ramps - When It Snows and Snows

In many places in Canada and the United States, it snowed and snowed and snowed on Wednesday on Thursday. Anyone intent on keeping a wheelchair ramp clear would have had to go out to clear it several times over the course of the day. On Thursday, I talked to a business that had done just that. Good for them!

And I get that it's difficult for businesses operating with a minimum of staff doing a large amount of work to get out and shovel off a wheelchair ramp a few times a day when that becomes necessary.

It's a logistical challenge, certainly. However, people that need that wheelchair ramp to be clear in order to get into the business didn't ask for the disabilities that make a wheelchair ramp a necessity, and their money is just as good as everyone else's. Business owners need to ask themselves if they can afford to potentially turn clientele away.

And they need to remember that accessibility benefits everyone.

The Case for Keeping Wheelchair Ramps Shoveled

Let's look at a community like the one in which I live:

  • I can think of several people that I see in the town on a regular basis who use either a wheelchair, scooter, mobility aid (or, at any given time, stroller for a small child).

  • A high proportion of the population are seniors who may be more comfortable using a ramp than stairs.

As I've said in this blog before, when I, as a disabled person, see that a place of business is difficult for disabled people to get into and to navigate once they're in it, my immediate reaction is that the business really doesn't want the money of disabled people all that much. I don't need a wheelchair ramp anymore to get into buildings - I can handle stairs, even if they've got some snow on them. But I had to use a wheelchair for over a year, I remember how frustrating it was not to be able to get into a building, and if I see an highly inaccessible set-up I'm inclined to go somewhere else if possible.

Because I'm always mindful too that even if I can use the stairs today, all it could take to put me in a wheelchair again or anyone in my family on crutches (or worse) would be a good fall. And suddenly wheelchair ramps and accessible entrances are very useful even on that temporary basis.

I like to support businesses that get that.

The other case for keeping wheelchair ramps clear is that if a wheelchair ramp is open, people are going to use it. And if there's snow and ice on it and someone gets injured because of it, businesses leave themselves open to legal action. So please, for your own sake, business owners, be prepared to keep your wheelchair ramps clear. Protect your customers and yourselves.

And that's all I'll say about that! Enjoy the winter weather, everyone!

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