Monday, January 20, 2014


Until now I have focused on the positive. Solutions and helpful technology. The barriers exist, be they man-made or natural and unavoidable.

I used to enjoy icefishing, hockey, tobogganing and a lot of other sports that take place only in winter. But, that has all changed since my injury. I still enjoy icefishing, when the amount of snow on the ice, more likely depth of the ruts to get on the ice, is scarce enough that the minimal clearance of my lowered floor minivan can navigate without getting hung up or damaged. It has been a number of years since I have been able to get on the ice and I do really miss it.

However, that sickly photo above that encapsulates my view of winter is the utter truth. Last winter was brutal. This one is starting off in the same way, having just emerged from a bitter three-week streak of regular -30°C or lower nighttime lows with both snow and wind. The cold makes it dangerous for anybody, especially someone with reduced circulation and who cannot feel their legs freezing. But, when you can get where you are going is not such a big issue. When someone like our neighbors two blocks away don't shovel their snow all winter, and you have over 60 cm of packed snow on a public sidewalk, it makes it dangerous and almost unusable for anyone. They have refused to shovel the sidewalk again, this year. You chose to buy a corner lot. Shovel your snow!

I try to restrict my excursions to essential outings when it is that cold and I tried to arrange to have someone with me, just in case. If I get stuck it would not take long for my hands, protected only by the gloves, to begin to freeze before someone came along to give me a push. The cold is hard enough on all vehicles but the adaptations to my van are already something to respect as fragile. The kneeling of my van and the ramp have performed flawlessly even in the coldest weather but, when possible, I turn off the kneeling and park side a curb or accept the push to reduce the moving parts and hopefully save something breaking.

Finally, if I have to choose winter weather, I will choose no snow and colder than -15°C. Why? Because ice melt substances do not work below -15°C. When they do melt it clings to my tires and push rims, making them wet, slippery and gritty, not to mention the mess they cause me to track in. I am also aware of the potential toxicity to pets some of them have. When it is nice and cold everything is as solid as concrete and much easier to traverse by wheelchair if the snow is hard packed or properly cleared. Living in Saskatoon has taught me not to hope for the later.

I have considered starting up a site to shame cities for their disgraceful inaccessibility but I fear that it would be focusing too much of my energy on the negative, instead of the positive. As well, peers of mine who have lobbied for years spent much of their energy and put much of their heart into what resulted as miniscule improvements and the civic government of the time patting themselves on the back like they had moved mountains.

Solutions: Choose outdoor activity for less cold days, when possible. Plan activities, hobbies or projects for the worst of the winter months. And, unfortunately, complain when neighbours, cities and businesses do not make reasonable attempts at their legal and moral duty to clear snow.

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