Winter Weather Creates Challenges for Wheelchair Users

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The snow isn’t just causing a headache for motorists who drive on four wheels, but it also causes problems for those who navigate on two. Wheelchair users say winter weather makes it tough for them to get around.

Michele Meadors says her route to work is often filled with roadblocks. She says snow piles in the middle of the curb cutouts and unshoveled sidewalks often make her late to work or keep her from going at all.

“I like working. I like being independent. I like doing things for the community, but if I can’t get out because my mobility device can’t get through snow, then my life comes to a screeching halt,” she says.

Meadors lives and works downtown. Her five-block commute via city sidewalks is filled with nearly impassable terrain at times. She admits her daily commute can be scary. She knows how dangerous winter driving can be. An accident eight years ago left her paralyzed from the waist down.

“I had an automobile accident and hit black ice in 2011 and flipped a Toyota 4Runner over in southern Iowa. It changed my life in 30 seconds,” she describes. It’s why something so simple as snow on the sidewalk makes her so frustrated. She hopes a glimpse into her daily life will help others become aware of the struggle those living with disabilities face.

“It affects how you feel as a person, and it’s just that sense of loss of independence that you’re stuck somewhere and you can’t do anything about it,” she says.

The city says business owners are responsible for shoveling the sidewalks in front of their properties. Operation Downtown says it will sometimes shovel the curb cutouts, although it isn’t their responsibility to do so.


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