Wheeling through the winter
Winter in Manitoba is challenging for even the most able bodied, but can present unique challenges for those with mobility issues.
To take a more in depth look at these challenges, the Winter Wheeled Mobility research group recently met to identify and discuss the barriers that face people who use wheeled mobility devices like wheelchairs and scooters in the winter.
Gathering in the CanadInns at the Health Sciences Centre, and facilitated by Dr. Jacquie Ripat, associate professor of Occupational Therapy, the meeting brought together over 30 researchers, graduate students, service providers and people who use wheeled mobility devices.
“Winter’s hard for all of us,” Ripat said. “We need to know what the challenges are so we can come up with innovative ways to address these issues.”
A main pillar of the research consisted of a survey that went out to nearly 100 Manitobans who use wheelchairs or scooters. Of the survey participants, 42 per cent reported that they went outside less frequently during the winter months, increasing feelings of isolation and limiting community participation.
Some of the barriers identified were environmental, such as improperly cleared sidewalks. Other respondents identified issues with wheelchairs and scooters, such as tires that get stuck in the snow or slip on icy ramps.
Recommendations that came out of the research included increasing awareness of issues regarding accessibility; addressing the specialty service needs of people who use wheelchairs and scooters; and devising new policies regarding snow clearing in the city and across the province.
“All these issues are intertwined,” Ripat said. “A multi-dimensional approach is needed to mitigate barriers to community participation by wheeled mobility device users in winter.”