P.E.I. Residents With Disabilities Struggling to Get Outside with Icy Sidewalks, City Landscape

Logan MacLean, Reporter
Posted: Jan. 21, 2022,

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. ” Alan Stanley made sure to call ahead and see if the restaurants were accessible.

He was in Montreal on his first trip out of Prince Edward Island since an injury. It was snowy.

“Yes, we have ramps,” the restaurants all told him.

But when he came to some of them, what he found wasn’t exactly accessible. The restaurants had ramps, but they were covered in snow and ice – not much use for someone in a wheelchair.

“There’s two problems with ice on a ramp. One is you can’t get started and the other is you can’t get stopped,” Stanley said. “And there could be some ugliness.”

Widespread issue

Stanley has seen the same problems on Charlottetown sidewalks every winter since he was injured seven years ago.

Charlottetown Public Works handles all sidewalk clearance in the city, but citizen driveway shovelling and the nature of the city machinery leads to small ridges building up and hardening along the path, Stanley said.

Despite the department and residents doing their best, the small things become a huge issue for people with mobility issues, he said.

“The best way I can put it is, any time you’re looking at a sidewalk or anytime you’re looking at a building ” imagine what it would be like to go down that building’s (ramp) pushing a heavily laden shopping cart.”

When things get bad enough, Stanley has to use his wheelchair on the street, he said.

“It’s not so much that it’s dangerous. Normally polite people suddenly become very aggressive when you’re out on the street. It’s, ‘What the hell are you doing in my road?'”

While Stanley has had seven years to adjust, people with new disabilities often just won’t go outside in the winter, he said.

Community support

ResourceAbilities – formerly the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities – hears from clients every year who are frustrated about sidewalks and snow, said Marcia Carroll, the organization’s executive director.

“They need to get out and get groceries; they need to get to a doctor’s appointment. They don’t feel safe going on the road ” the roads are narrow as it is.”

However, the biggest barriers people with disabilities face are social and economic isolation, which are only made worse by environmental factors like icy sidewalks, Carroll said.

“Lots of people can’t afford a computer. Lots of people don’t have the internet due to their economic isolation. So, to get out, to go get groceries is actually a social activity for them.”

For Carroll and Stanley, the issue isn’t city employees not working hard enough. It’s a matter of prioritizing people with mobility issues, including seniors, children and people with babies in strollers.

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