‘It makes you feel a little not respected or thought about’
Posted: Feb 09, 2021
The past few days of snowfall have made it difficult for Danica McPhee, who uses a wheelchair, to go for walks or get around Windsor due to the number of sidewalks left unshovelled.
Having been stuck in the snow before, McPhee said she’s often discouraged from heading out in the winter to walk her dog or do other activities alone, out of concern that she might find herself in the “humiliating” situation again.
In Windsor, there’s a bylaw that requires homeowners and tenants to clear the snow in front of their house within 12 hours, yet some still don’t get it done.
And while the issue isn’t new, it’s become even more frustrating for people like McPhee who live with a disability.
“It just feels a little bit like you don’t matter and that’s a feeling we get every time we can’t enter a building and it hurts,” said McPhee, who works with Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario.
“It’s difficult … I walk my dog every day, I’m assuming that I’m kind of known to the neighbourhood … and again it makes you feel a little not respected or thought about, even if that’s not the intention.”
McPhee added that the curb cuts, where the sidewalk dips down for someone to cross the street, often also gets covered by snow and she asks that the city be mindful of these spaces, along with bus stops.
Yet most of these accessibility issues don’t get recognized unless someone complains, McPhee said, adding that that’s not necessarily the best way to deal with these issues.
“That actually puts all the onus on the person who’s already being discriminated against to stand up for themselves and they just might not be able to do that,” she said, adding that active monitoring by the city might help.
As a result of snow and ice pile up, she’s unable to routinely walk her dog in the winter and has to send it to a daycare for proper exercise.
Despite the added cost this brings, she said when she comes across a stretch of unshovelled sidewalk she always thinks about the person in the home – whether they also have a disability or are elderly and can’t take off the snow themselves.
“I’m conflicted about it, I get so upset when I’m rolling over the snow and my fingers are freezing and I can’t move but then I wonder is it somebody with a disability in there? Are they trapped inside as well?” she said.
‘Inclusion is the gateway to independence’
But even then, the City of Windsor has a Snow Angels program where residents can call 311 to have someone voluntarily shovel their space if they can’t do it themselves.
Disability advocate Kevin McShan, who uses an electric-powered wheelchair, says he’s also gotten himself stuck in the snow and, like McPhee, has dealt with the issue for quite some time.
“You learn to be strategic I’ll tell you that much, you try to look at the most uncumbersome path and what I mean by that is when there’s less snow you try to aim your wheelchair and if you get stuck in the snow you hope you have enough horsepower to get out of it,” he said, adding that he also makes sure he goes out with a personal support worker or someone who can pull him out.
But what would help is if people took more of an initiative to think of others, he said.
“Inclusion is the gateway to independence so anything we can do to alleviate the concerns for people with disabilities I’m all for it,” he said.
“We’re all rolling in the same boat and one thing I always tell people is ‘if you don’t want to help me out, how about we trade places for a day’ and then they usually get the message.”