Icy sidewalks pose bigger problem for people in wheelchairs

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COLUMBIA - After the snow settled on Monday, icy conditions took over the roadways and sidewalks. 

The ice covered sidewalks caused some people to fear for their safety while walking through Columbia. For people in wheelchairs, specifically, this fear may be intensified. 

"I will sit and look at certain sidewalks if I'm planning on wheeling somewhere and see: Has the snow melted? Has anybody cleared that sidewalk?" Chuck Graham, co-director of  the Great Plains ADA Center, said. 

Graham has been in a wheelchair since 1981, when he got into a car crash and broke his back. 

"Whenever you have snow or ice, it's almost impossible to get around," he said.

Graham now works at the Great Plains ADA Center in Columbia, where he advocates for people with disabilities.

He said icy sidewalks have always been a problem, because it is up to residents and businesses to shovel their own sidewalks.

"If everybody doesn't get out and do that, then people in wheelchairs aren't able to use the sidewalks," Graham said. 

The City tried implementing a pilot program in the 2013-2014 winter season, in which it examined "realistic ways in which sidewalks in residential areas may be cleared on a priority basis," according to the City website. 

The program was discontinued after not producing "expected results."

Violators are supposed to be fined for obstructions to sidewalks, according to City law, but the City website said enforcement is complaint driven.

"I don't know that there's any enforcement of that," Graham said. 

KOMU 8 reached out to city officials who said they could not provide us with the number of complaints today.

Graham said the lack of enforcement forces people in wheelchairs to wheel on the streets, where the city generally gives more attention and snow treatment. 

"That's not safe when it's dry, but it's especially dangerous when it's icy and slushy, where cars can slide into people," Graham said.