Plow operator training on accessibility undergoing review and update to improve service, City of Winnipeg says

The City of Winnipeg has announced crews will plow residential streets after complaints and concerns piled up following a recent snowfall and some hope accessibility will play a bigger role in snow clearing going forward.

Nancy Gabriel uses a walker and rides the bus. She found it difficult to get around Winnipeg following the recent snowfall, which saw the city blanketed with between 10 and 20 centimetres, depending on the area, from Nov. 10 to 11.

“Sometimes my husband has to carry my walker and I struggle to walk,” Gabriel said.

She’s not alone.

Vivi Dabee is the program lead for advocacy and community outreach with CNIB in Winnipeg. Dabee said for people with sight loss, winter conditions make it more difficult to navigate the city.

“It’s very debilitating if you can’t get out of your home just to walk down to the corner store to just get some necessary items that you may need because your street isn’t plowed,” Dabee said, adding plowing streets is about more than just making it easier for vehicles to get around.

“If you live in an area where there is no sidewalk and the streets don’t get plowed it’s difficult as a person with sight loss to determine where the curb ends and the street begins and you could potentially be walking into danger,” Dabee said.

It’s an issue St. Vital resident Raymond Slipetz, who’s blind, wants the city to address.

He filed a complaint last March against the City of Winnipeg with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission because he said the city’s snow clearing policy does not meet accessibility needs.

“You have individuals who are limited vision like I am and you have people in wheelchairs which is what got me on the thing in the first place that cannot access the city during the winter,” Slipetz said.

The City of Winnipeg’s public works department said it couldn’t accommodate an on-camera interview on Tuesday.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said it takes plowing deficiencies and concerns like this very seriously.

“Public works is continuously working to improve the quality of street and sidewalk snow clearing to better meet the needs of persons of all ages and abilities, despite the annual adverse winter weather conditions we contend with from November to March,” said Ken Allen, spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg’s Public Works Department.

Allen added the department is working with the city’s Universal Design Coordinator, the snow clearing industry and accessibility advocates on the issue.

“We are reviewing and updating plow operator training to include information related to accessibility in order to improve the level of service,” Allen said. “It is expected that once training is implemented in 2023 that the standard for snow clearing will be improved for all sidewalk users.”

Dabee finds that work encouraging.

“It demonstrates that the city is aware of the issue,” Dabee said, pointing out until more changes are made people will continue facing challenges getting around.

An issue that for Gabriel is all too familiar and frustrating.

“I’m tired by the time I get to the bus stop because I have asthma, too,” Gabriel said.

The residential plow will start Thursday morning with a parking ban taking effect at 7 a.m.

The city’s reminding you to check your snow zone and find alternate parking if you leave your car on the street.

The parking ban will remain in effect until Saturday at 7 p.m. which is when crews anticipate they will have residential streets cleared.

If you don’t move your car when your zone’s scheduled to be plowed, you can expect a ticket in the mail or potentially one on your windshield. 

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