GANDER, NL – The droning sound of snow-blowers and scraping of shovels on driveways filled the neighbourhood after a fresh dump of snow on Jan. 16.
This typical winter scene is no different for Alma Rowsell, 75, when she comes outside to clear her driveway – except for one thing.
She has to do it in her wheelchair.
Rowsell lives in wheelchair accessible housing provided by the Newfoundland Labrador Housing Commission (NHLC).
She received radiation treatment 20 years ago and suffered nerve damage in the spinal column, confining her to a wheelchair.
Tackling a snowfall is challenging, but Rowsell is used to it.
“Well, you can’t quit,” she says, armed with a shovel and a pair of warm mittens.
“I’ve been doing this a long time.”
It’s not very often other people offer to help her. And due to his demanding work schedule, Rowsell’s son, Wade Pelley, can only drop by on weekends.
“During the week days, she comes down and does it, and I yells at her,” Pelley laughed, resigned to Rowsell’s stubborn and defiant nature.
But Pelley believes more can be done for Rowsell and others in similar situations.
“For low-income housing with wheelchair accessibility, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing should at least be responsible for snow clearing,” he said.
However, a statement provided by the NHLC to the Beacon quoted the tenant lease agreement, which states that “the removal of ice and snow from entrance walks including the public sidewalks fronting and/or abutting on the leased premises shall be the responsibly of all tenants residing in residential houses.”
Further, the NLHC stated it is not financially feasible to assist tenants who have accessibility issues.
“NLHC has 5,599 social housing units throughout the province, many of which are in rural and remote areas,” according to the statement. “It would be challenging both physically and financially for NLHC to have people available in every community where our units are located to assist tenants with accessibility or other health concerns whenever there is a snow storm.”