As a person with a disability living in Nova Scotia with its winter snow storms, I know how cold and hard it can be to move around and get outside. It’s tough both physically and emotionally, so here are some tips on how you can survive winter in your area (assuming you don’t live in a tropical paradise) if you’re living with a disability.
The winter here in Halifax normally lasts from December till February, though it can sometimes last a little longer. There’s almost always one last big dump of snow sometime in March.
We get less snow than most of the rest of Canada, but it still rains a lot, and sometimes flash freezes. It can be hard to physically get outside because of the ice, and Halifax plows don't always do a good job of clearing the sidewalks, especially the curb cuts at intersections. They don’t seem to care that some of us are using wheels to get around. Often, they don’t even put salt or sand down, making it slippery for everyone.
For a wheelchair user or anyone with a physical disability, snow and ice clearing is twice the struggle because this may lead to injury. It prevents people with disabilities from getting out in the world, and that’s twice as tough with the current COVID-19 pandemic that is already keeping us home and isolated more than usual.
I feel like these are things to people in charge of snowclearing in my city don’t consider. They seem to think they can cut a few corners, and people can just get their boots wet, or scramble into the street to get around their messes. The problem is some of us, who are just as much citizens as anybody else, don’t have that option.
Paul Vienneau is local disability advocate whose disability developed over time after an accident left him in a wheelchair. He’s the self-proclaimed “asshole with a shovel” because a few years back, after a particularly nasty storm, the city refused to clear the sidewalks to a standard that worked for people with impaired mobility. So, Paul grabbed his shovel, went outside, and cleared them himself, making the nightly news.
I got to meet Paul at an Easter Seals Nova Scotia Gala. He’s a photographer and took my photo, as I was featured in an inclusive fashion show. This was after I had done a presentation for the Lions Club Foundation’s Speak Out competition about him and accessibility in Halifax, so it was kind of like meeting a hero.
When I was in college he came in for the Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC) Wellness Week and I got to introduce him!
For me, having a ramp to my house is a life changing development, especially in the winter.
It allows me to get outside and is covered by a roof, which also functions as a car park so limited snow gets on it. Plus, my stepdad is my hero because he makes sure to clear the snow so it's easier for me to get out.
When its really cold my body can get really stiff. When that happens I snuggle up and watch a movie with popcorn, hot chocolate and my heated blanket, which is really cozy and warm. It helps my muscles relax and it's good for when you can’t use the heat, like when we recently had contractors in to replace my front door. To buy your own heated blanket click here .
It can also be hard to emotionally to cope in the winter if you live with a disability because you can become isolated inside. I suggest trying to get out with your friends and family as much as you can to socialise, or chat with them virtually if in-person get togethers are not an option.
Winter can be tough for everybody, especially with mobility challenges, but it can be overcome with a little help and a little perseverance. And a heated blanket.