I live in Central Wisconsin. Our winters inevitably involve ice and snow. Ice and snow can cause travel challenges for everyone. However, there are additional challenges for individuals with mobility issues.
Sidewalks and ramps are essential for individuals with disabilities for getting from one place to another. In my apartment building, less that one-third of the residents have their own transportation. Many rely on the city bus and their wheelchairs to travel within town. Sidewalks are an essential part of getting to and from the bus and to their destination.
To insure everyone has the freedom to get to their destinations safely, it is important for property and business owners to keep sidewalks and walkways clear of snow and ice. This includes sidewalk entrances and intersections. This is not just crucial for wheelchair users, but anyone with mobility issues. Individuals with visual impairments especially need walkways free of ice. Clear sidewalks are also appreciated by mail carriers, delivery drivers and emergency personnel.
Most cities have ordinances in regards to keeping sideways clear. In my city of Wausau, property and business owners are required to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall. Property owners who fail to do so will receive a warning and must clear their sidewalks within 48 hours to avoid a fine. The minimum fine is $90, but can be much steeper depending on how much snow needs to be removed.
As I was driving around town with my mom, we were sad to see so many in clear violation to this ordinance. It is also disappointing that the City of Wausau is not following through on enforcing this ordinance. I live in a building in which every resident has a disability, mostly physical disabilities. There are several assisted living facilities as well in the immediate area. Many of us utilize the sideway to Kwik Trip and Fleet Farm for necessities. Unfortunately, there is a long strip of sidewalk currently unusable due to snow and ice.
When sidewalks are not useable, wheelchair users are forced to use the roadways. With high snowbanks and slippery roads, this poses a great risk for wheelchair users. When driving during the winter, it is really important to keep alert and drive at safe speeds. Wheelchair users need to make sure they are as visible as possible. Reflectors and Flags help improve visibility for wheelchair users.
Individuals with disabilities are wise to stay home during and immediately after a snowfall. Making an extra effort to stay current on weather forecasts can help individuals plan for these events. Friends, family and caregivers can help by checking in to make sure their loved ones have everything they need during and immediately after snowstorms.
A tip for property owners: Mix Epsom Salt and Sugar in a 1:1 ratio. Sprinkle on your walkways before and after a storm. The mixture helps melt the ice, but will not melt snow. Additionally, Epsom Salt is easier on plants and concrete than the road salt. Many towns and cities provide barrels of sand for residents to use on walkways. This really helps make sidewalks and walkways less slippery. Call your city hall or look on-line for the location of this resource.
Keeping sidewalks and walkways clear is important to the safety of those who utilize them. It is a civic duty for property owners to ensure the safety of others. Most importantly, it’s always great to be a good, respectful, citizen and to help your fellow man. Good deeds always come back to you someday!
Until next time, Happy New Year! Keep rollin’ and keep smilin’.
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