Snow-covered sidewalks difficult for residents in wheelchairs to get around

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – City ordinance requires residents to clear their sidewalks within a day after it stops snowing.

But for those in wheelchairs, moving around can be quite challenging during or after a snowfall.

Brianna Paauwe tries to stay prepared before it starts snowing.

“I might even just have to ask for a hand,” Paauwe said. “Even if it’s just getting across the street, I just will find someone walking down the road or even ask one of my neighbors, like ‘hey, I just need a gentle push to go get some groceries.'”

Life doesn’t get any easier for her when sidewalks are covered in snow and slush.

“When everything gets covered in slush, I use the bandanna to like wipe off all the snow and then I can get a little more traction,” Paauwe said. “It’s very limiting, and it takes away a lot of independence.”

Many people have expressed their concerns recently with sidewalks not being fully cleared.

“In the last few days, the complaints are really starting to come in regarding the corners being cleaned up and getting these paths wider,” city engineer Doug Kerns said.

Paauwe says it takes her about 10 minutes to get to school on a normal day

But snow-covered sidewalks force her to wait much longer.

“That alone waiting for a cab, I could spend almost an hour to two and a half hours just waiting around to go home,” Paauwe said.

Ice humps on the sidewalks have caused trouble for her in the past.

“It had iced over, we couldn’t break through them, so we had to physically lift my entire chair over it,” Paauwe said. “And it was very unnerving for me.”

All she is asking for is that more people be aware of the problems she has to deal with every time the snow falls.

“Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to go across the street and get some Taco Bell,” Paauwe said. “You know, just simple things.”

City ordinance requires all curb ramps and crosswalks to be cleared.

Residents who have trouble removing snow right away are advised to use sand or salt mix before shoveling their sidewalks.

Anyone who doesn’t clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall could face a fine from the city.