Got Snow Clearing Plans for the Disabled, Seniors?

Winter snow clearing strategies in some cities help seniors and the disabled navigate streets and sidewalks when snow falls and accumulates.

Most cities have a snow clearing plan, but there is not much in it for seniors and others. Municipal snow clearing plans for disabled populations are usually limited to depending on the kindness of neighbors. Automated calls from public works during snow events in smaller cities often remind residents to help their neighbors that need help. The city of Cincinnati's current snow plan relies on residents to help neighbors with disabilities "navigate through the difficulties of winter."

Wheelchair users may be stuck in their homes for a really long-time, missing work, doctors' appointments, school and more, as they wait not just for their streets, bit also sidewalks to be cleared. Navigating through the snow is not always an option, according to Edith Prentiss, a New York City resident and head of a group called Disabled in Action. She told CityLab, "Two years ago, I was in for at least two weeks."

Prentiss said part of the problem is that residents do not shovel paths wide enough for wheelchairs.  In addition to narrow paths on sidewalks and windrows--the piles left after a snow plow goes by--ice and melt water create hazards for wheelchair users, the disabled and seniors.

As municipalities begin to prepare for the upcoming winter, the following city strategies could help foster better snow clearing plans for the disabled and seniors.

Volunteer Snow Corps

A late 2015 Washington Blade opinion piece by Peter Rosenstein talks about how the nation's capital city organizes volunteer snow teams to get the job done.

"Mayor [Muriel] Bowser recognizes there are seniors and persons with disabilities who will not be able to comply and is trying to do something to help them. Clean sidewalks are even more important for this group of residents who might be less stable on their feet and might need to get to medical appointments. So in an effort to help ServeDC, the Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, is working to recruit up to 2,500 volunteers to join the D.C. Resident Snow Team organized to help vulnerable neighbors with snow removal," he wrote.

ServeDC provides the snow shovels for the volunteer corp.

Municipal Snow Clearing Programs

Many cities offer senior citizens 65 years of age and over and disabled residents the opportunity to apply with a registration fee for municipal snow clearing services.

Clarington, Ontario, Canada will address municipal sidewalks and driveway windrows bordering single-family homes, semi-detached, link housing and row housing in urban areas for eligible residents.

The Windrow Clearing Program for Persons with Disabilities in Burlington, Ontario, will plow windrows from eligible residents' driveways within 16 hours. However, windrows created from sidewalk plows are not included.

Camden County, N.J., has a snow clearing program for the disabled and seniors when there is more than four inches of snowfall. The county department of corrections supplies the equipment, but eligible participants must call after each event to request the service.

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