For disabled, winter brings problems

I’m a community member of Altoona, and I know firsthand how individuals who use mobility devices are affected by the poorly plowed roads.

I use a wheelchair that I don’t often use for transportation outside of my home. PennDOT is required to plow side streets and main roads, but it does not comply with making sure curb ramps are uncovered after plowing snow onto them.

Curb ramps are designed so community members with durable equipment could access sidewalks. Plowing jeopardizes this accessibility because the plow trucks cover the curb ramps.

This creates a barrier for those individuals who use wheelchairs, scooters, walkers or other mobility devices. Not only is the sidewalk now inaccessible, but if drivers see these devices on the road then they are yelling profanity and beeping without the realization that the road is the only option one has so they can transport themselves independently.

Curb ramps are under Title II of the ADA that requires state and local government to make pedestrian crossing available to people with disabilities by providing curb ramps.

Curb ramps are accessible and available in the city until we have a snowstorm. Then it becomes dangerous to use them due to snow covering them after the roads have been plowed.

According to PennDOT’s FAQs, they can put snow on the sidewalk because the roads are a first priority.

In my humble opinion, this gives their employees grounds to plow onto the curb ramp without trying to use caution and minimize sidewalk hazards such as covering the curb ramp or making the sidewalk completely inaccessible.

Other people who are driving cars in the same weather conditions as I am using my wheelchair have yelled and told me to stay home.

Of course, utilizing the road is unfavorable and dangerous for me and people with disabilities, but they don’t understand our perspective of needing to go into the community for personal reasons.

If all the plowed snow is covering the curb ramp and the sidewalks are covered in the excess snow from the streets, what am I or another person in the same situation supposed to do?

Laurie Musselman