'You get stuck and it gets embarrassing,' says man who uses wheelchair urging Calgarians to shovel snow

People with mobility problems are reminding others about the importance of shovelling and clearing sidewalks after a big snow storm like Calgary experienced this week.

City says residents responsible for clearing sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall

Calgarian Jan Repa shovels snow 'to make it easier for other wheelchairs'

5 years ago
Duration 0:34
Repa says regular wheelchair tires don't have a lot of grip, which makes it difficult for him to get around on snowy sidewalks.

This week's heavy snowfall has made life in Calgary just a little more difficult — from having to scrape icy windshields, to navigating slippery roads and trudging through high snow drifts. But for people will mobility issues, uncleared sidewalks can mean a struggle just to leave their front doors.

"The snow that is not cleared in a reasonable amount of time, it does inhibit total movement for anyone in a wheelchair especially if it's a manual chair or if they're wheeling their chair themselves," said Meloney Patterson, executive director of Voice of Albertans With Disabilities.

Since the storm rolled through Calgary on Tuesday afternoon, southern parts of the city received 31 centimetres of snow, while northern parts of Calgary got 15 centimetres, Environment Canada's website says. 

Calgarian Jan Repa is fully dependent on his wheelchair to get around, but Wednesday morning, he was out with a shovel, trying to do his part to keep the sidewalk clear for people with mobility issues.

"We've got no grips on the tires, so even a little bit of snow makes it real tough. Then you get stuck and it gets embarrassing," Repa said.

The city asks people have sidewalks cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall. Patterson says even sooner is better for people with accessibility issues, as the isolation caused by immobility can bring depression and anxiety. 

"It certainly inhibits mobility in a drastic way and people should be cognizant of individuals that have reduced mobility, that includes seniors that are using walkers and scooters," she said.

Larry Linton, a senior who suffered a stroke and has vision problems, said the biggest challenge is that many people stop shovelling the snow at their property line, leaving the alley openings tough to navigate.

"It would be very much appreciated by us if folks could put in a bit more effort, and shovel the walk at the end of the alley, thereby creating a continuous path of shoveled walks," he said.

With files from Monty Kruger and Dan McGarvey