Snowy sidewalks and a wheelchair

A disabled account of the unshoveled sidewalks

Emily Brown, Columnist

One of the biggest concerns my mom and I had coming to Hamline was getting around campus in the snow and ice in my wheelchair. I got a new wheelchair last August and when it comes to batteries in the cold weather, we have found it isn’t as durable. It has died within minutes a couple of times in the cold. I’ve found that is another major issue that makes it harder to drive my wheelchair through the ice and snow. This winter, I’ve noticed that Hamline isn’t doing as good of a job of ice and snow removal as I wish they did.

When I came out of Anderson to wheel to GLC my first day of class, I noticed that the pathways between the buildings was covered in an inch deep long layer of snow. Because it was so cold, my mom decided to push me in my stroller. It was hard getting to class and I felt a little unsafe in the snow. When I had my electric chair the next monday, it was hard to drive to class through the amount of snow on the sidewalks. Snow was everywhere and the tire tracks from my wheels were a couple millimeters deep.

Even worse than the snow is the ice on the sidewalks. I could feel it under my wheels and I felt as though I was going to swerve and hurt myself, another person or both. I drove very carefully and made it to class safely. I’ve had this feeling multiple times. I do not want to hurt myself or anyone due to driving on the ice and losing control. It’s significantly more slow and it takes more horsepower to get through the snow, both physical and mental.

Not only is it stressful to be out in the snow with little to no body movement, the bumpy ride also adds a layer of stress. It takes my chair extra power and energy to get through the snow and in turn, takes me, the driver, the extra power and energy just to get to class.

But, it’s not my safety I’m worried about. A number of students have slipped and fallen since the start of the semester. Everywhere I look, people are walking very slowly and holding on to each other, trying not to fall. This isn’t just a matter of safe driving, it’s the matter of people not slipping and falling. Even my mom has been forced to hold onto my wheelchair because of the ice and snow.

When I drove to class when the sidewalk was clear of all snow, I forgot how easy it was to drive to class. It felt as if I was driving on air. But it didn’t last long because a couple of hours after my blissful walk (roll) to class, it snowed again.

I’ve found the most snow heavy area on campus, that I’ve been to, is the ramp to the library and especially the top of the ramp. I was headed to West Hall and it was super hard to turn right because there was a giant snow pile overflowing to the side of the ramp that was in my way. If I wasn’t careful, I would’ve drove right into it.

Now, the other side of the augment is that if Hamline knows it’s going to snow a number of times during a short period of time, it’s easier to do only a few huge plows and shovels instead of a lot of little shovels daily or semi daily. But the problem is with that is it doesn’t take a lot of snow to make the sidewalks slippery. It doesn’t take a lot of snow to make the sidewalks unsafe to walk on. And it certainly doesn’t take a lot of snow and ice to make it hard and even dangerous to drive in a wheelchair across campus.

Everyone should feel safe on campus. And a safe walk (or roll) to class should be to the last worry on our minds.