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Housebound by snow, disability advocate pleads ‘shovel your sidewalks’ | CBC News

For Mary-Jo Fetterly, who has no feeling from the neck down, the fear of hypothermia at this time of year is very real.

Fetterly cannot feel her extremities and, in winter weather, worries if she would be able to tell if she was getting frostbitten. The Vancouver disability advocate relies on a wheelchair for mobility and says when it snows the number of people who fail to clear their front walk make it too risky for her to go outside.

“Please shovel your sidewalks and put salt down,” said Fetterly Wednesday on The Early Edition. “We don’t want to create more disabilities.”

Fetterly, who is chair of the City of Vancouver’s Accessible City Strategy, said people and municipalities must do their part to make the sidewalks safe for both electric and manual wheelchair users.

“These chairs are not designed for any type of weather,’ said Fetterly. “In a power wheelchair, you slip and slide and the danger is the weight of it, they topple over and all of a sudden you are on the ground.” 

Fetterly said not only is it important to keep sidewalks clear, but also to be cognizant of where piles of snow accumulate, so there is enough room for wheelchair users to maneuver. 

“People are great, they want to help you, but you also have to figure out ways to engage them to help you because, often, they won’t know,” she said.

Municipalities, she said, should also pay special attention to clearing curbs, so wheelchair users can access sidewalks and cross streets safely.

Fetterly noted the weather would also make it challenging for many care workers to get to their clients, who will likely be stuck indoors if they don’t have help this week.

“It’s really treacherous,” said Fetterly. “There’s no way that you can go out in it.”

If you have limited mobility and need help clearing the public section of your sidewalk in Vancouver, you can phone 311 to request a volunteer, known as a snow angel, to lend a hand.

To hear the complete interview with Mary-Jo Fetterly on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:

Mary-Jo Fetterly, chair of the City of Vancouver’s Accessibile City Strategy, speaks with Stephen Quinn about the challenges those with disabilities face trying to get around in blizzard-like conditions. 5:51

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