Blizzard Poses Extra Challenges For The Disabled

Snow-covered sidewalks may be an inconvenience for many New Yorkers, but they can pose a much bigger problem for people who are disabled or mobility-impaired.

Paula Wolff works with the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York and uses a wheelchair to get around. The building where she lives, Selis Manor in Manhattan, provides housing for the blind and disabled. Wolff says she has heard many horror stories from building residents since Sunday, when the snowstorm made city roads and sidewalks impassable.

“I heard about one couple who were going from the building to their home in Brooklyn,” Wolff said. “They started out with Access-A-Ride at 10:30 on Sunday night, and they didn’t get home until 7:30 the next morning.”

Wolff says that in previous years, she has been able to return to work one day after a big snowfall. But this year, it has taken two days for roads to be clear enough for her transport van to travel safely.

In addition, she says, sidewalks are often cleared without regard to the disabled -- with snow piled high at corners and curbs, and very narrow passageways through the snow banks.  “They may be wide enough for somebody walking through on foot,” Wolff says, “But they’re often not wide enough if you’re in a chair or using a walker.”