I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life, having grown up in Bemidji and having moved to the Twin Cities nearly eight years ago. In that time I’ve experienced increasingly difficult conditions in the winter, because I am in a wheelchair and sidewalks and curb cutoffs that allow access to the sidewalks are not properly cleared.
Sidewalk clearance seems to be just good enough so that those who can walk can go about their daily lives — to work, errands, appointments — and do so safely. Meanwhile, a person in my situation, who values her independence and the desire to be a productive member of society, must either risk personal safety — by sitting in the street waiting for the bus or maneuvering in the street if the bus stop is a distance from my destination — or forgo plans all together and stay home (which also means having to stay home from work at times).
I’ve brought this to the attention of anyone and everyone within earshot of me, and always hear: “Yeah, that’s what happens in the winter” or “It’s not our responsibility.” What happened to Minnesota Nice? What happened to helping a fellow neighbor when they struggle? No able-bodied person would turn over their independence and safety for a few months out of the year and put much of their life on hold simply because they cannot get around their city safely. Why should anyone with mobility limitations have to do so?
Sure, I could move to an area that does not get the winters we do here in the north, but Minnesota has been my home all of my life. Everything I know is here, and I shouldn’t have to leave it behind simply because my safety and independence aren’t thought to be somebody’s responsibility.
I realize things such as snow removal take time and money, which are both valuable in our society these days. However, isn’t the time it takes to properly clear a sidewalk worth the value of someone’s safety and independence? I should think it would be. Mobility-challenged people are no different or of lesser value than their able-bodied counterparts, and they should not be made to feel that they are.
Sadie Ruge lives in St. Paul.