Snow on sidewalks creating obstacles for people with disabilities

With so much snow piling up, getting around is becoming more difficult, especially for people who have disabilities.

In Minnesota there are 612,000 people living with a disability. Sidewalks throughout the Twin Cities metro may be plowed, but oftentimes, the area is still too narrow for a wheelchair.

Kianna Lehman, who uses a wheelchair, says getting around this snowy February has been brutal. She takes Metro Mobility to work and the light rail home.

“Every time I’ve tried to cross the light rail tracks I’ve been stuck, but no worries everyone always helps and everything else,” said Lehman of the Minnesota Council of Independent Living (MCIL). “It’s all the snow.”

One of the biggest issues for people in wheelchairs is something many are simply forgetting when plowing or shoveling. It’s those curb cuts. For a set of wheels, it’s like climbing Mount Everest.

“I need the curb cut and flat ground to get up and cross the street - or up on to the sidewalk and that’s usually what’s not cleared out,” said Lehman. “So what do you do in those situations? That usually means I can’t go anywhere.”

Sue Singer of MCIL agrees. Right now, curb cuts are a roadblock to the car door she tries to reach with her walker. 

“If those curb cuts aren’t shoveled or they’re ice-covered that, you can get really close to a door, but you can’t get up unless you can find someone else who can assist you,” said Singer.

Some people just are literally staying home because of the snowy obstacles.

“I know the St. Paul city ordinance the sidewalks need to be clear in 24 hours for snow and ice, but the reality is that’s not always the case,” said David Shaw of MCIL.

Much of the problem can be fixed with a simple shovel or plow and just a little compassion.

“I’m here too, I exist,” said Lehman. “Please make it so I can do what everybody else does.”

MCIL also mentioned issues with unshoveled bus stops and handicap spaces in parking lots that are too narrow. They say they don't see this as people not caring, but rather an awareness issue.