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Kenzie McCurdy navigates a sidewalk in Ottawa. The snow and ice make it a challenge. [Photo © Alexandra Elves]

Winter conditions hinder accessibility in Ottawa

This winter has been making it tough to get around for everyone. But for those with a disability, conditions are the worst Kenzie McCurdy, a social worker at the Ottawa Hospital and an accessibility advocate, has seen in years. McCurdy says some people with disabilities can be forced to stay inside when conditions are poor, which can make them feel alienated from the community. So far this winter Ottawa has had more than 260 centimetres of snow fall since November.

Kenzie McCurdy pushes herself in her manual wheelchair through the snow-covered sidewalks. Rough conditions make it hard to navigate. Snow clearance is important for all people not just those with disabilities, she emphasizes. [Photo © Juwairiya Kembo]
McCurdy says she sometimes has to wait for people to come by and help her keep going. These conditions sometimes keep her from being able to leave her home and other have to run errands for her, she says. [Photo © Juwairiya Kembo]
McCurdy’s gloves help her throughout the cold to keep her warm and help her grip the wheels to push herself during such a season. “I use my hands like other people use their feet,” she says. “I need to be able to trust them.” [Photo © Juwairiya Kembo]
McCurdy says that one advantage to having snow banks is that they prevent her from ending up in the street if she slides. Different winter terrains present different challenges she has learned to adapt to. [Photo © Alexandra Elves]
McCurdy looks down a sidewalk she knows she won’t be able to navigate. She explains that changing her path and having to look for alternative routes is common and can be annoying.
[Photo © Alexandra Elves]
Although she travels by OC Transpo in other seasons, when winter comes along McCurdy switches to Para Transpo. Having to schedule rides with Para Transpo can take up time during her day, she says. [Photo © Juwairiya Kembo]
McCurdy and her neighbour Marie Sherman wait for the Para Transpo bus they scheduled to take them to work. “Bottom line is there isn’t enough service. Their system is a bit antiquated,” McCurdy says about the booking system and wait times that are sometimes are up to an hour. [Photo © Alexandra Elves]
A Para Transpo driver assists McCurdy on to the bus as slippery sidewalks create a challenge. “I don’t expect the service to be perfect. I expect there to be problems,” McCurdy says.
[Photo © Juwairiya Kembo]
McCurdy is a volunteer with StopGap Ottawa, a foundation that build ramps for buildings with one-step barriers. She says she hopes the brightly coloured ramps will draw attention to places that used to be inaccessible. [Photo © Alexandra Elves]
Businesses can buy StopGap ramps for the cost of materials, and labour is done by volunteers. Unless people are exposed to the issue of inaccessibility, how would they be aware of the problem, McCurdy says. [Photo © Alexandra Elves]