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Wheelchair and mobility aid users rely on citizens to clear sidewalks of snow

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 5:17 PM CST
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Snow can be inconvenient for everyone, but for people who use mobility aids like wheelchairs, canes, or walkers, it can make getting around town almost impossible.

“I used to say all the time, and I still make the joke that I live on an island when the snow comes because I can pretty much walk around my own block and that’s pretty much it,” said Masha Flinn.

In Casper, there are no ordinances that require snow removal from sidewalks, so it is up to businesses and individuals to choose to clear snow from their property. The City of Casper maintains sidewalks and parking lots they own.

“Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities is responsible for maintaining city-owned sidewalks and city-owned parking lots, so our crew goes out and plows all the city-owned parking lots in town and maintains city sidewalks adjacent to city property including the bus stops that are on or adjacent to city property,” said Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Director Zulima Lopez.

Even when sidewalks are shoveled, ice and slush can make it difficult to get around safely. Access points like crosswalks rarely have snow cleared out, instead, those are areas where snow is pushed by street plows, and it can be dangerous.

“Here at the corner of the library, there have been times where I have tried to cross the road there and I’ve gotten stuck right before the crosswalk ramp and my dog’s almost gotten ran over,” said Flinn.

A member of the Casper Council of People with Disabilities, Flinn has had opportunities to talk with City Council members about these dangers and concerns. She says they are working to find solutions for the good of the community.

“The City of Casper’s really tried their hardest since I’ve been involved in the community... they know it’s important for them to shovel not only for people like myself that are in wheelchairs or using adaptive equipment, but it’s important to do it for the community,” said Flinn.

Relying on others to shovel or lay salt can be frustrating and leave people stranded. Right now, hoping others remove snow is the only option for people who use adaptive equipment.

“When the snow comes around, if it’s not shoveled I lose a part of my independence,” said Flinn.

Flinn says she understands that keeping up with snow when it first starts to fall or during storms can be difficult, but that the community needs to come together to find more solutions than just shoveling and laying salt. Oftentimes, melted snow will refreeze, creating dangerous and inaccessible spaces despite best efforts.

One way community members can help one another is by shoveling or otherwise removing snow from sidewalks and access points like crosswalks. Casper Area Transit has a program for community organizations to help keep bus shelters clean and maintained, for more information or to sign up, visit their website.

“It’s not just me that struggles with it, it’s the whole community. Whether you’re disabled or not, you’re gonna have a challenge getting over things, getting over snowbanks and stuff like that, and it can be dangerous,” said Flinn.

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