How Does It Feel

To be stuck downtown in the snow on crutches

If Bob Dylan's father got Polio in 1946.    Abe Zimmerman two harsh Minnesota winters before he could walk with a then lifetime limp. If Dylan had written "Like A Rolling Stone" about his father it may have been a different song.

Once upon a time
You were carefree in your prime, weren't ya.
It was easy to get around in the summertime
Wasn't it
Now the snow is piled so high
Now it's hard get around no matter how hard you try
Getting to the Post Office is an ordeal
Yeah how does it feel?

We had our first big snow storm of the year this week. For most people with disabilities, the snow puts an end to getting around without too many worries.

Stuck at home because of the snow

Even with the best of help, the disabled can get stuck at home in winter. Wheelchairs do not work in the slush and snow. Wheelchair transport can be hard to get in a hurry.

Slippery sidewalks in Halifax, NS after the storm (CBC Photo)

A week before Christmas, I wanted to go to the Post Office to mail my children and grandchildren's Christmas presents.  At the last-minute, I put on my crutches and took a cab downtown. It was difficult and tricky.  The wet floors in building lobbies can be more dangerous than the sidewalk. One wrong move, one misplaced crutch and I would have been flat on my keister.

Winter is a very dangerous time for people with disabilities. Winter is the time when many people with disabilities suffer falls.  We like to stay inside where it's warm and the ground is dry.  A fall can be make the disability worse.  A broken leg or arm are bad.  A broken hip in the elderly or disabled can be fatal. I fell two years ago and I am still recovering from it.

Winter is dangerous for everyone. CBC reported  "25 people went to the emergency room in Halifax for injuries associated with slips and falls.  At Dartmouth General, 27 people went to the hospital after slipping and falling on icy spots on Monday."

How does it feel?

Late in the day, I was standing on the corner of Queen and Kent Streets waiting for the cab home on crutches.  I watched the people walking in the snow. I envied them, just to be able to walk a block or to go up the street and turn the corner. The snow did not seem to slow the walkers down.

Even a cab ride is no guarantee you can get to the store. The disabled can't jump the snow bank if they haven't shoveled the sidewalk yet. When I was younger, I would hurl myself over those banks and slide down the other side all covered with snow. Those days are long gone.

I stood in the freezing wind, waiting and remembering the time when I could walk a couple of blocks. I remembered just a month ago when I could whiz downtown in my wheelchair and go anywhere I wanted.

Four years ago the Disability Services Review scheduled their public consultations for winter nights in February. The not-for-profit disability support groups forgot who their clients were. Why Not Wait Until Spring when it's dangerous to get around in winter?

Oh well, only 3 months of winter for those living with disabilities to hide inside. And pray they don't fall.

Photo credit Bob Mical, Creative Commons, Flickr

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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