I just spoke with Myra Berloff, director of the Massachusetts Office on Disability, about the problems disabled people have had this winter getting around. “It’s been an exceptionally bad winter. We’ve gotten a lot of complaints,” she said.
Boston’s law regarding snow clearing puts the snow on the sidewalks squarely on the shoulders of the businesses and the residents who own the property it’s in front of. The city can add a fine onto your property tax if you fail to clear the snow to 42 inches wide within three hours after a snowfall ends.
But far more unclear is the issue of who’s to clear the curb cuts — those little ramps which make it possible for someone in a wheelchair to cross a street. Business owners and residents have a tough enough time keeping up with the snow without having plows come by every couple of hours to block the curb cuts again. But, as Berloff points out, what do you do when you’re a large person in a wheelchair or scooter who can’t even ask strangers to lift them over a snowbank as a favor?
In Salem a few years ago, she said a woman in a wheelchair was killed when a truck backed into her. She was in the street trying to cross the road because she couldn’t get through the sidewalk. For many of the people, getting to medical appointments and running errands is vitally important. She urged anyone who sees an issue in their neighborhood with snow barring access for people with disabilities, who can’t get help by simply calling their local department of public works, to call her office at 617-727-7440 (or 800-322-2020 toll free) and tell her office. They will call the appropriate municipality and, using the power of her office, try and convince them how important it is to keep curb cuts and sidewalks shoveled.
“It’s a matter of people’s survival, to be able to cross the street,” said Berloff.
Read this week’s Allston-Brighton TAB (http://www.wickedlocal.com/allston/) for an article on who’s responsible for keeping curb cuts cleared in the city of Boston.