I live in Wausau, Wisconsin. We just had our biggest snowstorm of the season…in March! We got just about a foot of snow. In Wisconsin, it can snow at just about any time of the year! In fact, Wisconsin is the 7th coldest state. Last week many people were out on their motorcycles and today you need a snowmobile to travel.
Snow brings many challenges to those of us in wheelchairs. I thought it would a good idea to blog about the pros and cons of snow as a wheelchair bound person. I was originally going to go back to the library and take pictures and more notes, but since the weather is not up to par I had “snow luck” in achieving that goal for today. As a matter of fact, my van took a header in a ditch! My caregiver and friend, Resz, decided to do a good deed and “drive off “the snow from the van. His adventure ended with a tow truck! Thankfully, he and my van are ok!
So here is my pro and con list of being in a wheelchair during a snowstorm.
1. Wheelchairs get stuck in the snow. I am sure most of you have experienced having your wheels spin in a car during snowy weather. Wheelchairs have the same problem and there are times we get stuck, just like a car does. This can be a dangerous situation if I am by myself, as I am basically stranded in the cold weather. Even if I have a companion, power chairs are very heavy and I am not exactly a small guy either! Whoever is pushing/pulling me out is at risk for not only falling but also at risk of getting run over.
2. Wheelchair wheels get wet and sometimes even muddy traveling through the snow. This can be a problem for carpets. Also when I go out my wheels can make floors slippery and dirty. It can be a hazard for whoever is walking behind me. My apartment has tile in the kitchen and bathroom, but the other two rooms, it is carpeting. Even if I stay on the tile part, it can make things slippery for my caregivers. My carpet gets dirty fast during the winter season, mostly from my chair.
3. I can’t move around to warm up. When the temperatures drop, most people will move around to keep warm if outside. I can’t even effectively rub my hands together to keep them warm.
4. Hard to operate a wheelchair with mittens. I wear mittens instead of gloves because my “CP Hands” do not always cooperate when putting on gloves. My hands have contractions and that makes them hard to straighten and control. I often wonder if I could ever be handcuffed! Also it is hard, if not impossible for me to wear boots.
5. Parking lots that are not plowed or not plowed well, make it difficult for van lifts. Last year (a year ago this very week) we were in Rochester, MN. It snowed 6-8 inches. We were staying at a hotel and my mom had to go shovel the parking lot space next to my van.
6. If I end up in a ditch, I am virtually trapped. Last year I had no choice but to travel in the snow as I had appointments at Mayo Clinic. Luckily, nothing happened. However, if we had ended up in a ditch many things could result. At the very least I would be stuck in the van until we were pulled out. If my van turns over, I am in real trouble. I and my very heavy wheelchair would be hanging upside down.
7. Snowy days can become housebound days. I live in apartments for the disabled and the apartment manager, Bob, works hard to keep our sidewalks and parking lot clear. However, the sideways around us are not always cleared. If I can’t use the sidewalk, I have to use the road. If the sidewalks are snow filled, that means the roads are also snowy. It is dangerous enough to ride my wheelchair on a clear road, it is extra dangerous when it is slippery and drivers have a harder time seeing me.
8. Coats are not made for “CP Arms”. There many times it is more of a danger for my caregiver to put on my coat than for me. My arms are tight and have to be pulled through the sleeves of my coat. Many times when I try to help with my arms, I over extend my very large fists and accidently punch people in the face! My mom has experienced this many times.
1. I do not slip and fall! There is a definite advantage to not being upright. We don’t fall very far to the ground!
2. I do not have to shovel! This is definitely an advantage as I will never experience this back breaking chore. When I was growing up, I remember my brother not enjoying the adventure of shoveling, in fact he hated it…and still does. I get to wait inside where it is nice and warm, watching tv.
3. I do not have to dig out a vehicle. If I were to ever end up in a ditch, I may be trapped inside, but at least I will not be the one digging out the van! I have watched others doing this and it looks painful and cold!
4. No worries about tickets. Many people who end up in the ditch also end up with tickets for driving too fast for conditions. I will never have to worry about that!
5. Pile on the blankets. If I ever do have to be outside, it is easy for me to pile on blankets to keep warm! It is not as easy to wear blankets when standing!
6. I have the perfect excuse to stay home and watch tv! When I was a student, my mom would sometimes keep me home on snowy or extra cold days. She was always afraid that something would happen to the bus and I would be stranded. I loved those days and the fact my mom was a worry wart!
There are some wheelchair bound people who embrace the snow. Here are a few videos of those crazy fools!