I am lucky to have lived in Colorado my entire life, enjoying the 300 days of sunshine, outdoor adventures, laid-back vibe, and genuinely kind community members. But Colorado winters can be brutal, especially for people with mobility disabilities. When homeowners and business owners either do not shovel at all or fail to shovel an accessible path, the beautiful winter landscape becomes a dangerous obstacle for many.
Crappy snow-covered curbs are not just an inconvenience for those of us who use mobility devices. They can literally make the difference between maintaining employment, accessing medical care, and getting food or being unable to leave our homes.
Last winter, the property management at my complex repeatedly shoveled snow into the ramps outside of my unit. They also only cleared paths for cars in the parking lot, leaving several feet of unpaved lot between the sidewalks and parking spaces. Despite many complaints to property management, I got stuck in my house for days at a time until the snow melted or a friend could shovel me out of my unit. Even when I could leave my unit, there was a chance I might not be able to access my destination if the curbs leading to the building were not cleared.
Do you think that attaching a shovel to the front of my chair or hoping on an all-terrain wheelchair will magically solve this snow-covered curb problem? I wish! Shoveling my way out of potentially multiple feet of snow is (1) not physically possible for my body, (2) logistically very challenging, and (3) dangerous. And unfortunately, those fancy all-terrain wheelchairs are out of the question for me because they can easily cost several thousand, if not tens of thousands, of dollars and could be a nightmare to transport. Your suggestion to get one is not funny; it is a harsh reminder that the burden for access is wrongly placed on disabled people and not the community as a whole.
That leaves only one option: Properly shovel your sidewalks, ramps, and paths! While a crappy snow-covered curb is merely bothersome for most people, it means segregation from the community for those of us with mobility disabilities. This winter, please keep people with mobility disabilities at the forefront of your snow clearing efforts. By making a path for us, you are ensuring that everyone can navigate through the storm.
Marley Hamrick is a queer young woman living with a rare metabolic disease and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). She has her M.A. in Ethnic Studies and B.A. in Feminist and Gender Studies, and her research focuses on intersectional disability theory and nonprofit communications. She works in nonprofit development and communications.