New Englanders are no strangers to winters filled with snow, sleet and cold temperatures.
While they certainly know how to brave the cold, they also know how hazardous and cumbersome the wintery weather can be.
Each snowfall, they venture into the usual routines for how to remove snow from their paths and property in order to go about their lives and ensure their homes are as safe as possible amid snowy or icy conditions.
In addition to the challenges and potential hazards snow and ice can pose for navigation outdoors, such is especially true for individuals with disabilities, including people who use wheelchairs. With this in mind, snow removal in the region is a particularly important necessity at home and across the community.
As many New Englanders are also well aware, snow removal at home can be a challenging and physically demanding task.
When taking care of their own snow removal, individuals with physical disabilities can face additional challenges when traversing snowy paths, shoveling and/or snow blowing.
In light of frequent snowfall in 2021, staff and participants of CHD’s All In: Barrier-Free Recreation have been employing different tools and approaches to help them overcome challenges they may face during winter weather. Below are methods that some of All In’s athletes use when striving to remain independent when doing their own snow removal:
In recognition that some of the resources and tools mentioned below may not be available to all, we want to emphasize that the following is meant to highlight the achievements and insights from longtime All In participants as they navigate challenges posed by winter in the northeast.
Working with patience and determination
Ben Eastman is a T5 quadriplegic for whom ‘nothing gets in his way,’ in the words of All In Program Manager Jess Levine.
Ben serves as the goalie for the Springfield Thunderbirds Sled Hockey team and also participates in several other activities that All In offers, including adaptive CrossFit.
When taking care of his own snow removal, Ben uses a snow blower and his truck with a plow attachment to clear his driveway. He also uses a track snow blower, which pulls his wheelchair along while it’s being used.
“It feels good to clean up my own yard,” Ben said. “It takes a while, but I can say I did it.”
Viewing challenges as a moment to thrive
In addition to his role as Outreach Coordinator for All In, Ryan Kincade is also a member of the Springfield Thunderbirds Sled Hockey team and a participant in other adaptive sports and activities that All In facilitates.
An L1 paraplegic, Ryan said he views shoveling as more than a task, but also an opportunity.
“Shoveling myself out gives me independence, exercise and a chance to be outside during what would normally be a difficult season for someone that uses a wheelchair,” Kincade said. “I have a chance to choose to be upset about the situation or to do something about it and enjoy life regardless of the weather.”
Finding enjoyment in accomplishment
Pete Rooney is a double amputee, a veteran, and a player on the Thunderbirds Sled Hockey team.
He uses an all-terrain track chair with a plow attachment to plow his driveway, which he says he enjoys using.
“The track chair is a fun way of pushing snow out of my way,” he said.