We had snow in my area yesterday. There’s no dodging it anymore: Winter is on its way. Winter changed a lot for me after my brain AVM surgery and stroke.
Content Note: Ableism, accessibility, brain AVM, call-out, stroke, winter
Image Description: Close-up on a large shovel full of snow.. It’s held by a man in a beige jacket, navy gloves, and jeans.
I’m one of those annoying Canadians who would be perfectly happy with sweater weather all year long. Heat’s a seizure trigger, so humid Ontario summers make me nervous and uncomfortable. I’m not especially bothered by the cold weather in winter, but I don’t like snow and ice, especially since my brain AVM and stroke.
Like, I really don’t like snow and ice.
Especially when it accumulates – on sidewalks, on stairs, on wheelchair ramps, in banks that I have to step over to get from my ride to the sidewalk. Sometimes it accumulates because it’s falling so fast and hard that there’s no point in trying to clear anything or make surfaces safe for walking until there’s a break in the onslaught, and it’s on those days that I don’t go out unless it’s necessary, and do what I have to do quickly so that I can minimize time on slippery surfaces if I must be out.
I know that there are days when it’s almost impossible to keep surfaces clear, which is why I’m so impressed by businesses that try, and why I’m more likely to spend my money in them. But if I have to be Accessibility Bitch with a business about the snow/ice on its stairs/ramp that’s obviously been accumulating for a couple of days or more…especially if I have to do it repeatedly….rest assured that not only will I stop frequenting that establishment if at all possible, I’ll also let people know why I did so.
I Won’t Go Where I’m Clearly Not Wanted
I’ve said this before a couple of times in my post-brain AVM surgery years, but I think it bears saying again: Not keeping stairs and ramps clear in winter whenever possible says to me that I should probably look for another way to get what I’m looking for; if you really cared about what I have to offer, you’d make sure that I can get into your building. So maybe I look for another business that wants my money, another volunteer organization that wants my time and experience, or another community group that wants my input.
I know that you don’t intend to send that message, but that’s the message I get: That what I have to offer isn’t as good as what a non-disabled person does, and therefore not worth the effort it takes to keep your entrances free of built-up ice and snow.
That used to make me a bit sad. But now, frankly, I’m over it. I know my worth, and if you don’t, that’s your problem. But your short-sightedness puzzles me, particularly when business is involved.
My money is just as green as anyone’s, after all.
This Isn’t Just About Me
I am a young(ish), moderately disabled person, yes; I’m not the “norm”. I am, however, living in a community with a high population of older adults compared to the rest of the province (according to Census 2016.) I actually sit on a committee of older adults trying to make my community a place where people can age well, as someone interested in accessibility issues, and the ability to get around safely in winter is definitely a concern that most committee members share.
It’s also a concern for parents with kids in strollers, and people who for whatever reason are a little unsteady when walking, and people with no mobility issues at all who are just walking a bit too fast to get out of the cold.
Here are some things to think about:
- A wheelchair ramp that’s got snow and ice built up on it is of no use to anyone. It’s better off blocked off, in fact, until the people in charge of the ramp can commit to keeping it a condition where it’s safe for people to use.
- When snow and ice enter the equation, anyone can fall. I was nineteen, in the days before the brain AVM surgery and stroke, fairly healthy and wearing good boots with lots of tread when I took a bad step in a snowy parking lot in Kingston and fell flat on my back. Luckily, I walked away with just my dignity bruised.
- I’m really not as militant as I sound. If I bring concerns about an accessibility issue to you and you demonstrate that you’re willing to listen to me and take me seriously, I’ll likely go away singing your praises. And if I see evidence of action based on our discussion – you’re aces in my books. But having to come back over and over is annoying for both you and for me.
I don’t like writing posts like this, damn it, but I’m still a bit unsteady even with my cane, especially in winter, and there are many people out there who much less steady than I am and wish that more people were saying this stuff.
So I’ll keep saying it.
Just take care of your snow and ice so that we can get into your buildings. It’s not that hard.