Saskatchewan

Heavy snow means a struggle for Regina people with disabilities

John Bishop has muscular dystrophy. Ashley Nemeth is blind. They're among many in Regina who can't move around independently after a weekend storm blanketed the city in snow.

John Bishop has been stuck at home since Monday; Ashley Nemeth is relying on family to get to work

A weekend snow storm blanketed Regina and much of southern Saskatchewan in snow, making it difficult for people to get around the city. (Radio-Canada)

A weekend storm which blanketed much of southern Saskatchewan in snow has stranded John Bishop in his home since Monday.

Bishop has muscular dystrophy and uses a mobility scooter to travel around the city.

He appeared before city council last month to advocate for an ultimately unsuccessful motion to require residents to clear their sidewalks.

Housebound, he's had plenty of time to reflect on his comments in recent days.

'You could go stir crazy,- John Bishop, who uses a mobility scooter,  says he feels stuck in his house

Since Saturday, some 35 centimetres have fallen on Regina, clogging the sidewalks and many residential streets.

"I feel stuck in the house and as I said to [city council], you could go stir crazy," Bishop, who lives in the Heritage neighbourhood, said on Wednesday.

Road crews have been working around the clock to clear major roads of snow, according to the city. In addition, the city has been at work clearing high volume "priority one" sidewalks which it takes responsibility. 

John Bishop, pictured in 2016, has muscular dystrophy and said he has been stranded in his home since Monday. He has been unable to travel due to the large amount of snow build up. (CBC)

Other sidewalks, such as those in residential areas are the responsibility of the residents to clear. Often, those sidewalks are left to accumulate snow, making travel difficult for people who need scooters, walkers or canes.

On Monday, Paratransit cancelled on Bishop due to the road conditions, putting a halt to his plans to get some food for his service dog, Tally.

"Tuesday, they called me and cancelled for going to the [YMCA] and I was hoping to go there and do some exercises to keep what muscles I maybe do have left," Bishop said.

He sometimes receives help to clear the ramp to his home and the sidewalk but on Wednesday he was clearing the ramp himself.

"I don't know if they even really care, some of the council, if they turned the question down that I had," he said referring to his delegation at the Feb. 26 city council meeting. 

Ashley Nemeth said she is relying on her husband, friends and family to get to work and back home. Usually, she would walk to the bus stop and take it but the snow has rendered that option impossible. (Radio-Canada)

Ashley Nemeth spoke at that same meeting. She is blind and has a guide dog named Rick. Nemeth is the program lead for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Regina.

"I talked a lot about the isolation that occurs when people don't shovel their sidewalks and people aren't able to get out ... they're not able to do their daily lives," she said.

My guide dog Rick can't navigate through [the snow]. He is not sure where I want him to go because everywhere he looks, there is an obstacle.- Ashley Nemeth

Nemeth said she is relying on her husband, friends and family to get to work and back home. Usually, she would walk to the bus stop and take it but the snow has rendered that option impossible.

"My guide dog Rick can't navigate through it. He is not sure where I want him to go because everywhere he looks, there is an obstacle," Nemeth said on Wednesday. 

"So, it's not safe for us to be walking back and forth from the bus."

Nemeth said the snow has posed problems for CNIB clients as well, who haven't been able to go to meetings, appointments with staff or even medical appointments.

If people with disabilities do not have proper supports, they're pretty much just shut in, according to Virginia Lacroix, advocate and project coordinator for Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities. 

"It can lead to seasonal depression, anxiety, so another host of mental health issues," Lacroix said.

The primary role of the organization is to advocate for people with disabilities and challenge governments to ensure people receive the services they need. 

"We need to put into place a plan to identify people that are really stuck and in need of assistance," Lacroix said. "At least go out and check that they have their basic needs."

With files from Radio-Canada's Carl Sincennes

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