The failure to clear ice and snow from sidewalks presents a challenge to all pedestrians. As the weather worsens, the lack of pathway maintenance in the streets of Montreal shows a blatant disregard for Montrealers with reduced mobility.
Disability activists are calling for the City of Montreal to improve their snow removal program. Laurent Morissette, a wheelchair user and disability rights advocate with Regroupement Activistes Pour L’Inclusion Québec (RAPLIQ), contends that one concern is the city’s messy sidewalks. In an interview withGlobal News, the wheelchair-user describes being stuck in a pothole on the road and how it “took five minutes before [he was helped] out.”
The lack of maintenance forces Montrealers with physical disabilities and others with reduced mobility to remain in their homes, as private and public pathways become inaccessible. Morissette claims that it is normal for wheelchair users to stay in their homes for “the duration of winter.” With the increasing snowfall, disability rights advocates have been calling on the city to do more.
However, many Montrealers are unaware that the city has already announced the implementation of a reduced-mobility snow removal program.
In February of 2019, the City of Montreal launched a reduced mobility snow removal program to address such accessibility issues. According to The Montreal Gazette, Jean-François Parenteau, the mayor of Verdun, announced that the purpose of the program was to clear residential areas “when winter weather makes it dangerous to negotiate slippery front steps and paths.”
The city requires citizens to call 311, a hotline which direct callers to request for the city’s snow-removal service. By requiring citizens to call in their residential needs, the City of Montreal is delegating the task of clearing the streets on the residents themselves – rather than organizing a general city-wide snow removal initiative.
There is a lack of awareness about the reduced-mobility snow removal program, and a need to advertise it effectively. According to the CBC, the City of Montreal’s lack of progress in the program may be an economic choice. Last year, the city exceeded their budget by six million, providing them with incentive to withdraw out of initiatives they deemed to be costly, including the snow-removal program, estimated to cost 20 million.
Despite this, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante insists that there is a “proactive” snow removal plan in place, although no schedule of the plan’s enactment has been released. It is also unclear what this would look like, and the fact remains that for people with mobility issues, the city remains inaccessible.
This article was originally published in print on November 24, 2019 as part of the Labour, Body and Care joint issue.