It’s five minutes before class starts, my wheelchair absolutely refuses to move under three or four inches of swirling snow, and the temperature is so frigid that penguins refuse to go outside. Once again I’m forced to say those eight dreaded words to someone I’ve never met: “Hey, could you give me a hand here?” The scenes which follow wouldn’t be out of place in a psychological horror film: me, eyes glued to my watch, praying someone can come around and free me from the snowy bog in which I’ve trapped myself, watching in horror as someone tries to lift my 600-pound power wheelchair out one-handed (word to the wise, you’d have better luck trying to drag a tank through the Sahara desert with your teeth and some dental floss;) me grimacing as a piece of the chair breaks as it is freed from its icy prison, and finally, the sense of relief that turns to unbridled rage as the wheelchair FINALLY runs under its own power, only to get stuck in another snow bank a few feet away. Sound unrealistic? Well, it isn’t, because all of the above scenarios have happened to me, sometimes all in the same day.
As with many things, being in an electric wheelchair has its advantages and disadvantages. Sure, you can move faster, but the feeling of superiority disappears when the famous upstate New York snowstorms come out to play. Suddenly, you feel like Indiana Jones stuck in quicksand. Simply put, this weather has become borderline ridiculous. I’ve been late to class simply because the shortcuts I use to get to class aren’t short when they’re covered in enough snow to make Buffalo jealous.
I know the facilities staff here at New Paltz have tried to keep up with snow removal, but more must be done to keep the sidewalks and paths safe, particularly those around the residence halls as well as some of the less-traveled areas of the campus. Ice can also be a problem as well. There are some paths on campus that have become dangerous due to excessive ice on the concrete. This issue could pose a serious safety risk, not only for handicapped students such as myself, but also for everyone else that uses these paths to get wherever they need to go.
The last thing I want to see is anyone slipping on the ice and getting hurt, but I also don’t want to imagine my wheelchair (or anybody else’s, for that matter) slipping and sliding across the ice like a drunken NASCAR driver riding an electric floor buffer. Maybe using a tool to break up the excessive amounts of ice would help make the paths a bit safer to traverse. Snow removal is a problem, but a solvable problem nonetheless.