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Unplowed sidewalks hinder people with mobility issues in Sudbury

The amount of snow the City of Greater Sudbury has gotten in the past couple of weeks has made the daily lives of some residents a lot harder.

Most people look at the unplowed sidewalks and the ever-growing snowbanks as more of an annoyance than anything else. But for people with mobility issues, the extra snow can mean not leaving their homes.

“There’s been instances when, you know, they’ve gotten stuck and neighbours have had to help them out, but a lot of them end up not being able to go out as much in the winter,” said Marie Leon, the Chief Executive Director of the Independence Centre and Network, or I-CAN.

The non-profit organization provides services to help seniors and people with physical disabilities live productively and independently. 

“It really impacts their social life and their community integration when they’re trying to get to places where they volunteer or work or congregate, so a lot of them just choose not to go out,” she said.

According to the city, plows and sanding resources are sent out when there are eight centimetres of snow and they try to have all sidewalks cleared 24 hours after the end of a snow storm. The desired condition of sidewalks are snow packed with a sanded surface.

However, some residents believe that the city is not doing as much as it could. 

“The sidewalks don’t get the treatment they should in terms of snow removal so that’s been a challenge for me and so far I’ve been fortunate to have made it through without incident but it can be a little scary at times,” said Orest Solonynka, an avid walker within the city.

He said he chose to get rid of his vehicle 10 years ago to live a healthier and cleaner lifestyle. He now walks to most places and hopes to be able to continue. But he worries that walking on winter sidewalks can sometimes be dangerous.

“With the freezing and thawing that happens and has happened already this winter, you get an accumulation of snow turning to slush and water freezing then being covered with fresh snow to make footing treacherous,” he said.

Even small snow banks can make progress difficult for some. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

As for Marie Leon with I-CAN, she says she believes the city is trying to maintain the sidewalks, but what some people don’t realize is even a little snowbank in the middle of the sidewalk can be impossible for someone in a wheelchair.

“People are shovelling out their driveways and as they do that some of the snow ends up back on the sidewalks and it ends up being thick in areas and difficult to maneuver,” she said. 

“Then they end up having to drive their wheelchairs in the road and then that’s another risk to them because sometimes the sidewalks are so poorly maintained that they have no choice.” 

Complaints about sidewalk maintenance, the size of snowbanks at some intersections and bus stops not being cleared of snow are some of the most common complaints Leon hears from her clients.

She believes more work needs to be done to maintain the sidewalks during the winter, especially at transit stops. 

“A lot of disabled clients as well as seniors are accessing those transits and they really need to be maintained,” said Leon.

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