Snow can bring beauty but snow can bring treacherous disaster as well. However, for the disability community, even though both of these scenarios are true, there are access issues that accompany snow as well.
Snow is always piled into the accessible parking spaces with no consideration for those with disabilities who venture out despite the snow. Why is it that snow is piled into these spots? These accessible parking spots are meant to be parked in by people who have disabilities, not as designate snow areas.
When one in ten cars have an accessible placard in Washington State but there only needs to be one accessible spot for every twenty-five regular spots, it is extremely difficult to find an accessible spot in the first place. So when accessible spots are blockaded by obstacles such as snow, this decreases the ratio of accessible to regular spots and makes it even more difficult for people with disabilities to find a place to park.
Please, also do not assume that just because it is snowing that people with disabilities do not venture out and therefore do not need to park.
Curb Cuts & Ramps
When roads are plowed, snow is often piled up against the curb; this snow typically ends up blocking the curb cut. Even when there is not much snow on the sidewalk itself, many inches of snow can be pushed up against the curb making piles many inches high. People who use wheelchairs and generally those who use walkers are not physically able to step over piles of snow, hence the reason why they need curb cuts to enter and exit the sidewalk.
Similar to curb cuts, ramps are also often blocked by snow. This occurs when walkways are cleared and snow is pushed into the ramp entrance/exit making accessible routes no longer accessible. Ramps are often forgotten when clearing snow; ironically, all can use the ramp. So just completely clear the ramp and allow it to continue as an accessible route for everyone.
Accessible vehicles are typically created by cutting the original body of a vehicle to allow for head-clearance. In this conversion process, the vehicle ends up being lower to the ground and four-wheel drive is lost. Both these changes make it extremely difficult to have a car that is wheelchair accessible and capable of driving in the snow.
Here again, it is assumed that people with disabilities do not go out when snow covers the ground. Automobile companies need to make more available wheelchair accessible vehicles that are capable of traversing the snow.
If only snow tires were more than just an idea given by random strangers when navigating snowy terrain in a wheelchair. Snow tires do exist for wheelchairs but even so, how accessible and affordable are they? Typical wheelchair tires cost about $500/tire and it can be a struggle to get insurance to cover them. Who’s to say insurance companies would pay for something that was only going to be used a small portion of the year?
Not to mention the snow packed on the tires. Unlike a car, you cannot just leave your wheelchair in the garage, and unlike snow-boots, tires from a wheelchair cannot just be removed when trekking inside. Who would want to track all that snow into their house?
For the disability community, both beauty and treachery can arise with snow but it is ignorance that is the root of the pain that comes along with snow. Not blocking accessible routes and providing access to quality alternatives for trekking through snow, could thaw out the freezing pain of inaccessibility that shows up when snow falls.