Physically disabled struggle in snow storm

Published On: Mar 05 2013 06:53:39 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 05 2013 07:50:09 PM CST

Getting around La Crosse in a snow storm can be tough, but it's even more difficult for people who are physically disabled.

When just putting one foot in front of the other is a challenge, a few inches of snow can become a huge barrier.

La Crosse resident Robert Haavind tries to avoid going out on days like this.

"I feel like a duck on roller skates,” said Haavind.

His cerebral palsy makes it hard to make his way through the slush.

When it comes to falling, Haavind said it's not a question of “if” -- it's “when.”

"Yeah, that's a given," said Haavind.

While many people worry about whether the roads are going to be clear, Haavind worries about the sidewalks.

Snow plows push the heavy, wet snow up onto his only way around the city.

"It clogs the wheelchair ramps, it clogs the bus stops, but there should be something that can be done,” said Haavind.

City ordinance gives property owners 24 hours after the snow stops falling to clear their sidewalks. For a homeowner whose home or business is on a corner lot, that includes the handicap ramp on the curb.

But the La Crosse Director of Public Works Dale Hexom said staffing cuts can make that difficult to enforce.

“We've had many staffing reductions over the years and that results in a reduction in services. So we don't have as many people out on the streets to clear sidewalks after the streets are cleared,” said Hexom.

"Those kind of barriers, I just have to live with because there isn't a good solution," said Haavind.

Haavind said if he does have to run an errand in snow like this, he'll usually call the shop ahead of time so employees can make sure the handicap-accessible entrance gets shoveled and de-iced.