While many people in Peace Region have to tread carefully during wintery conditions, these conditions have forced some disabled people in the community to not go out at all.
At least one person has left the Peace Region because of it, according to Marla Reed, the director of the Dawson Creek Society for Community Living, which helps people with disabilities.
"In the winter, he just couldn't get around," she said, relating a story of one disabled man who was living in the area and decided to move back to the United States, after years of living in Dawson Creek.
"He was an outgoing guy, very social, but he ended up being isolated and housebound."
This issue is not a new one within the region, and has been going on for years, she said.
However, the large amount of snow in the Peace Region, particularly in Fort St. John, is providing particularly difficult for those with disabilities to travel.
"It seems like for the first few months it was a constant snowfall so nobody could keep up" said Cindy Mohr, the executive director of the Fort St. John Society for Community Living. "For people with disabilities that makes it really difficult in getting out and about."
Mohr said that where this snow piles are placed presents a problem.
"I do find that the snow piles get so big that the accessible parking lots get smaller and smaller, which makes it inaccessible for people to use."
This situation also affects Dawson Creek.
"In the downtown core, they have lots of handicapped parking stalls, which is wonderful," said Reed. "But where does everybody put their snow from the streets? They usually push it to the street corner and it usually ends up filling the handicapped parking zones."
When this happens, Reed said, disabled individuals will have to drive around until a spot is found, or will have to wait for different times of the day to go out.
Because handicapped people rely on specially designed vans to get them in and out of parking, this heavy snowfall can also present a problem.
“There’s a lot of people who use wheelchair vans, either side loading or back loading,” Reed added. “Sideloading doesn’t work in the winter because there’s snow there … and a back door that lowers, they’re right in the street.”
However, organizations have been trying to help people who are affected by these mobility issues.
“What (the Society for Community Living has) done to be more proactive is phone the City and say, ‘You guys did this street but you missed this street,’” she said. “The City has been amazing and responsive.”
The Step Up N Ride organization, which provides transportation for disabled individuals, has also helped out.
“If such and such is blind and needs to go to the doctor, the driver will get out of the vehicle and escort them to the door,” she added.
Further north, steps are also being taken on a municipal level. Mohr, in addition to her duties with the Society for Community Living, is a member of the Mayor’s Disability Advisory Committee.
“We’re talking about diversity issues … I do feel it’s getting better because there is that dialogue,” she said. “We’ve made progress on the committee as far as accessibility issues but it takes time.”
In addition to the people who may use wheelchairs, blind people also face challenges in going alone through the Peace Region.
Margaret Sutton, a coordinator for the Dawson Creek Visually Impaired Support Group, told City Council on Monday that many blind people in the area will not go out in the area without someone to help guide them because of the rough conditions they face on sidewalks and streets.
However, both Reed and Mohr said that individuals can take some steps to help these people out.
“Just be conscious of where you’re pushing the snow,” she said. “Even if you’re in a household and blocking the sidewalk, you might be able to walk over that, but people with disabilities can’t.’
She also encouraged people to not only shovel their driveways, but the sidewalks in front of their buildings as well, to allow for disabled people to walk there.
Reed also said that people should take the time to place salt in front of their entrances, to make it easier for disabled people to enter.
“It’s just a lack of awareness,” said Reed. “Unless you’re stricken with physical mobility, the general Joe Public, you don’t look at accessibility through a lens unless it affects you.”