Snowy sidewalks and streets a complete nightmare for those with mobility issues

Click to play video: 'Complaints raised about inaccessibility to Saskatoon streets'
Complaints raised about inaccessibility to Saskatoon streets
WATCH ABOVE: Before snow covered Saskatoon streets and sidewalks on Friday, complaints were being raised about how some city roads and walkways were inaccessible – Mar 23, 2018

It was slow going on Friday as a snow storm with wicked winds blew through Saskatoon – but if you think you had trouble getting around, it could always be worse.

What if all your independence was directly tied to weather conditions? For Jeffery Siemens, who is confined to a motorized wheelchair, that’s exactly how he feels after another blast of wintry weather left his wheels spinning.

READ MORE: 2nd round of snow moves in over the weekend

“It’s worse for everybody that is disabled because we can’t get up like a normal able-bodied person,” Siemens said.

The Sherbrooke Community Centre where Siemens lives has staff dedicated to snow removal duty and keeping residents safe.

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“We want our elders to feel free, whether it’s inside or if they’re brave enough go out in -30, to be safe when they do it,” said Eric Anderson, Sherbrooke’s communication leader.

“It can be a challenge and our elders have to be responsible drivers when they’re on the sidewalks as well.”

Siemens said that would be a whole lot easier if the city would clear the sidewalks and streets of snow, so he and others don’t have to feel trapped inside, even on nice winter days.

“People with disabilities, people that are elderly – we’re part of the society.”

READ MORE: Snow leaves Saskatoon streets a slippery mess

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Anderson said they have worked with the city on concerns, as well as with the city councillor in the area. In 2017, city officials said they had extensive engagement with community groups to discuss key challenges and ways to improve winter mobility.

“For the first half of the winter we piloted this parachute team concept,” Brandon Harris, director of roadways and operations with the City of Saskatoon, said.

“Basically, it’s a team of city staff that go around in a van and as we get complaints, inquiries and requests – we can dispatch that team to do those exact things, target specific challenges that individuals are having in very targeted locations.”

Harris said there’s the potential to expand the scale of this unique approach to snow removal. The city has also made significant improvements to snow clearing and removal in business improvement districts.

Mobility is a top priority for the department and encourages anyone with a specific mobility challenge to call their customer service line at 1-306-975-2476.

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