Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. It is reference to this well known advinanza which inspires this writing. Hamilton weather this winter has been relatively mild and snow-free for the most part. This is good for most people with disabilities especially on the heels of Covid isolationism. However, there have been three recent snowfalls that in the eyes of 1977 are pretty mild (for those who recall). In the context of today two snowflakes having a chat constitutes a weather alert. For some reason cities (Hamilton among them) become paralyzed from snowfall. What then happens for people is “snow, snow, everywhere and no Way to Get About” for seniors and people with disabilities.
On October 21, 2021 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a case Nelson (City) v. Marchi. Marchi was injured attempting to hurdle a snow bank at the edge of a sidewalk curb. The Court ruled that Nelson (City) had a reasonable duty of care when it came to snow clearing and that a snow clearing policy of the City cannot be construed as a core policy, thus obligating the City to clear snow. In response to this ruling Hamilton committed to clearing snow from sidewalks along bus routes only including snow mounds at all bus stops two bus lengths. This does not reach the level of obligation the Court determined but the commitment is worthy of good faith. That is until now.
My wife, who uses a power wheelchair, and I tried to board a HSR bus at King and James Streets on Saturday, February 25. We were headed to Westdale. The streets were plowed but mounds of snow blocked bus stops. All of them. We had to make our way to King and Bay to get a stop with less snow, but still snow. The last snow fell 53 hours prior. my wife was again on March 07 discouraged by snow mounds at a Main and Caroline bus stop. The last snow fell on March 03. No problem if travelling on the roads, the snow is clear for vehicles. The City depends upon volunteers to clear sidewalk snow for people with disabilities and seniors, yet they pay for snow clearing on roads. How about we flip the script and pay to clear sidewalk while using volunteers for roads? Perhaps summer heat will clear the snow. What summer usually does is make us forget the problems of winter exempting the City from its Supreme Court ruling obligations.
Snow is a barrier to freedom for all persons with disabilities and seniors. Snow is a barrier to access stores, dining, entertainment and much more. Snow clearing is good for commerce and hospitality. When will the City get with the program and follow the Courts. Snow, snow everywhere and no way to get about.
On a more sullen note, on March 07, 2023 Tom Manzuk suddenly passed away. Tom was a member of the City’s disability advisory committee for the past 18 years or so. He was a member of the DARTS board, and was a true champion for accessibility in the City taking charge of issues of safety and access to historical buildings, built environment and so much more. Tom, his wisdom, devotion, sensibility, wry sense of humour and care for his community will truly be missed. Thank you Tom, for being Tom. Thank you for all you have done. Tom is survived by his wife Kim, parents and many other family.
Tim Nolan is a lifetime Hamiltonian.
Tim can be contacted through Accessibility Hamilton Alliance
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