Karthik Babumenon was born with diplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle control and coordination mostly in the legs.
He uses a walker and a scooter to get around Saskatoon. It becomes challenging in the winter.
“It was very difficult for me to get from point A to point B. Multiply it with a lot of snow,” he explained. “There are instances where I got stuck in the snow and my friends had to come and help me out.”
Babumenon said snow removal efforts in the city are enough for most people to get by, but for those with mobility issues have extra hurdles to jump over.
“I’ve had instances where I was not able to get out of my apartment,” he said. “They didn’t remove the snow for around four days. And so I couldn’t get out of the apartment to do something like basic grocery stuff,” he added.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Paul Gustafson, who’s been using a wheelchair for nearly 40 years due to a spinal cord injury from a vehicle collision.
“The biggest thing right now that comes to mind is the weather and the snow removal. And making sure that the snow is cleared and paths of travel are safe for people,” he told Global News.
“But for mobility issues, it becomes really challenging,” he added.
Delynne Bortis works with Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan Inc. She has faith in Saskatoon for becoming more accessible, but said more needs to be done.
“Saskatoon is trying. I mean, they’ve got different committees with the city and they’re trying. But yeah, we’ve got a long way to go,” she said.
Bortis coordinated the ‘SCI Sask Accessibility Challenge’ on Saturday. It’s an event to build awareness, understanding, and education for those without disabilities to put themselves in their shoes.
Attendees were able to participate in activities and simulations that would limit their abilities to perform tasks that Bortis said they may not have considered.
These activities included completing puzzles, painting, picking up items, and maneuvering obstacle courses.
The event also shared modifications to improve accessibility for folks living with disabilities.
“We have some adapted devices that they can use that we have there so that we can show them the difference between making things easier and how people have come up with all these different adaptations to make their world easier,” Bortis said.
They wanted the event to be fun and light-hearted, but Gustafson is hoping people left with a message.
“I think being aware and having a sense of understanding and perhaps kindness and compassion towards what it’s like to move around with a mobility impairment. So everything from clearing snow to perhaps holding a door open,” he explained.
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