MS Society of Canada regional director Lorraine Evans Cross helps MS client Sandie Olsen negotiate the alley behind the MS office in downtown Red Deer.

Winter making it tough for wheelchairs

A record snowfall in Red Deer has caused havoc for drivers, residents and pedestrians, but its impact on those confined to a wheelchair has left many feeling trapped.

A record snowfall in Red Deer has caused havoc for drivers, residents and pedestrians, but its impact on those confined to a wheelchair has left many feeling trapped.

Lorraine Evans-Cross, Central Alberta Multiple Sclerosis Society regional director, said every year at this time some of her clients who are in a wheelchair, or who have unstable mobility, begin to feel the walls of their home getting closer because of how hard it is to get around.

“Any alteration of their path is going to impede their mobility,” said Evans-Cross.

“Just any snow buildup on the sidewalks or on the curb-cuts on at the bus stops forces our clients to stay home because it just isn’t possible to get around in an average snowfall, let alone this craziness.”

Heather Dahl has been in a wheelchair since she was 17. Now, at 42, she is still frustrated by how inaccessible the city can be to people in wheelchairs, especially at this time of year.

Recently she was stuck in the entrance-way of the parking lot of her apartment in her van. Unable to move she called her landlord hoping for some help.

“She told me I’d have to stay there until I got unstuck, unless I had AMA,” said Dahl, who doesn’t have AMA.

Eventually her elderly neighbour, who uses a cane; her daughter and another person helped push Dahl out.

A single parent, Dahl can’t go grocery shopping or to the mall alone. She can’t wheel herself anywhere because snow is dumped on the sidewalk.

“My neighbour went and bought a shovel, across the hall went and bought a shovel, the guy upstairs went and bought a shovel because the sidewalks aren’t shoveled here so I can get to work in the morning,” said Dahl. “They don’t start (shovelling) until 9 or 10.”

Jean Stinson, Red Deer Action Group Society president, lives downtown and said about 50 per cent of the sidewalks in her area aren’t shovelled-out by homeowners.

“It is a huge issue for people in wheelchairs,” said Stinson. “Homeowners aren’t cleaning, in front of apartment buildings they are not cleaning either – not all of them.

“Then you have your curbs where a person in a wheelchair or an elderly person are not able to do so because there is no clearing whatsoever.”

She said the city and the people of Red Deer need to do more for clearing, otherwise people who have any kind of mobility impairment can quickly become shut-in for an extended period of time.

While people can help a bit by being vigilant about clearing their sidewalks, Evans-Cross said it would be an issue no matter the snowfall.

“Snow removal will assist, but the roads are hard to get so wheelchairs will just get stuck,” she said. “We have a volunteer who comes to our office on a handi-bus and the bus gets stuck in our back alley.”

But it isn’t all bad for people in wheelchairs in the city. The neighbours who shovel and push for Dahl for example, or in the case of David Radcliffe, the staff at the Collicutt Centre and random strangers.

Radcliffe just started using a wheelchair, because of his MS for traveling any distance outside of his home.

“It’s amazing how many people go out of their way to help,” he said. “In this snow I get stuck and I have people offer to push me out, people holding doors, people I think really going out of their way to help and it has just been so positive.”

An active guy, he said two people Chris Martyn and Sharon Kidd, helped set up a workout program tailored specifically for him. Able to run six miles just a few years ago, he is now limited to short dog walks before he has to return to the wheelchair.

“I really love still being able to do the gym,” said Radcliffe.

“People are just so willing to help you.”

Just Posted

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

Red Deer’s Soundhouse closing its doors on Record Store Day

The owners of The Soundhouse want to shut down their store on… Continue reading

WATCH: Property taxes in Red Deer will go up 2.02 per cent in 2018

City council passes a “tough” budget that maintains most service levels

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month