Editorial | Shovel sidewalks to help those with limited mobility

In case you weren’t in the Champaign-Urbana area the last week, it snowed. Having received more than a foot of snow, C-U now begins its excavation while students recover from the latest snowball fight.

In addition to snowball fights and impromptu sled hills, however, the winter storm also delivered headaches and struggles for those with limited mobility. Although everyone experiences difficulties with unshoveled sidewalks, it’s still possible to travel amid the storm if you’re capable.

For those using mobility aids — such as a wheelchair, scooter, walker or cane — travel is nearly impossible, as the snow makes walkways unnavigable. The University and C-U must strive then to protect those with limited mobility by prioritizing shoveling sidewalks and clearing roads throughout winter storms.

As observed in this latest snowstorm, a couple of inches of snow can render streets and sidewalks inaccessible. Mary Griffith, a University alum who uses a wheelchair, told The Daily Illini the importance of ensuring these paths are always traversable.

“Although Champaign does not get frequent large amounts of snow and ice, when it does happen it is crucial to have it cleared and salted for people with disabilities who utilize the ramps and crosswalks,” Griffith said.

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In addition to accessible ramps, having shoveled sidewalks grants essential travel if it’s needed. 

Also reported in The Daily Illini is the predicament of who shovels sidewalks where.

Neither Champaign nor Urbana require citywide snow removal. Instead, the cities prioritize “primary streets” where traffic can benefit the most from plowed roads. Both cities apply similar regulations making property owners responsible for shoveling sidewalks. Accordingly, as seen with this recent storm, this responsibility can be procrastinated or sloppy. 

Additionally, the University puts off-campus shoveling on the shoulders of C-U. Despite the University’s consideration of shoveling sidewalks “priority work” — and it typically shows — those with limited mobility may not be able to reach shoveled University property if their off-campus sidewalks aren’t plowed.

Although property owners may rely on warmer weather to finish their job, gambling on warmth is a short-term solution for long-term trouble.

As climate change arrives, more snowfall is expected in the coming years. Besides climate change bringing hotter temperatures, the Environmental Defense Fund reports, “a warmer planet is evaporating more water into the atmosphere. That added moisture means more precipitation in the form of heavy snowfall or downpours.”

More snowfall means more winter events like this recent one. Moreover, if the University and C-U were to begin designing plans to battle this consequence of climate change, everyone — especially those with limited mobility — could benefit.

The University and C-U should constantly strive to be the best in every frontier. In the area of snow removal and assisting those with limited mobility, the community can get a head start on an impending problem by prioritizing sidewalks and suppressing snow accumulation.

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