By Cathy Grant
‘Well how have you been coping with all of the snow?’ At least in the lower mainland that has been the ongoing topic of conversation for everyone over the past two months. I know people who live in the lower mainland often don’t get much sympathy from the rest of the country (or even the rest of the province for that matter) around our winters but this time we actually do have a winter that is at least comparable to everyone else.
And that sucks! Snow and wheelchairs don’t mix at all, and all the white stuff has put extra burdens upon or anyone with mobility issues. For the record, I got off a lot easier than a lot of disabled people in the lower mainland. I live in a part of Vancouver that while it did get snow wasn’t as much as other neighbourhoods. What snow we did get melted and was removed quicker from the sidewalks than elsewhere. So, I only had to put up with a couple of days of being completely snowed in. A few people I know were forced to stay in their apartments for several weeks however. Both because of the difficult traffic conditions but more importantly because of the dangerous and often completely impassible sidewalks.
The negative impact of being snowed in cannot be understated. Being coped up in the same space day after day having to be even more reliant upon others for your daily care, can be a real strain on people. It gnaws on your spirit, slowing draining your dignity and sense of independence. And for me at least; it’s not just the isolation and being home for long periods of time that is the real killer. There have been other times that I’ve done that as well. For me the real kicker is the loss of choice around the whole issue.
One of the hardest things for enabled community to understand about the lives of people with disabilities just how empowering choice is. For example: if I chose to stay out for much of the evening and come home at 10:45 pm I could do that. That I’ve never done that, is completely irrelevant. That I could: that I have that choice is empowering to me, and I believe many other people as well. However, if that choice is taken away from me, even though I’ve never taken advantage of it; will still hurt. That’s what being snowed in feels like to me. The fact that it’s random and I can’t blame it on anyone in particular (weather is ‘just one of those things’) only disempowers me even more.
The one silver lining with all this winter weather, however ,is that it does provide an excellent teachable moment. Because we’re not the only ones who are snowed in. Many enabled people were also negatively affected by the winter weather, and were forced to stay home or make major plans/adjustments to their lives to get to someplace or do something that they’d normally ‘just do’. Talk to friends and family about those instances and definitely be sympathetic don’t be afraid to point out to them, this is what your life is like all year round. It could spark a new level of understand with the people you know.
This of course doesn’t prevent the snow from sucking though.