Victoria experienced record-breaking snowfall this February. Last month, over 55 cm of snow fell over B.C’s capital, to the delight and frustration (perhaps in equal measure) of many.
To some Victorians the snow was a welcome change. Residents, especially those who benefitted from school closures, embraced the snow, making snowmen and hitting the hills of Beacon Hill Park on sleds.
Others found the snow to be nothing but an inconvenience. Road conditions were less than ideal, hundreds of people experienced power outages, and transit routes were limited for days.
- There’s a MASSIVE snowball fight happening in downtown Victoria tonight
- Hundreds stranded at BC Ferries as Pat Bay HWY closed due to heavy snowfall
- Vehicles are spinning out of control on the Malahat due to heavy snowfall
However, to some, the snow proved to be more than just a minor inconvenience. As snow plows worked around the city to clear roads and parking lots, an accessibility issue began to emerge.
Many handicap parking spots in Victoria and Saanich were used as spaces to plow snow into. These piles of snow, some of which were several feet tall, then turned to ice making these spots inaccessible for weeks.
Victoria Buzz reached out to Saanich local, Michelle Rachel, who lives with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and has been personally affected by this development. Rachel is an ambulatory wheelchair user, meaning she has the ability to walk in some situations, but requires the use of mobility aids.
“I know many people in town who are impacted by this issue – in that they rely on the use of vans with wheelchair ramps, which cannot safely park anywhere other than designated handicap parking spots,” Rachel explains.
The City of Victoria’s Traffic Bylaw states that businesses are responsible for clearing snow piles fronting their property by 10 a.m. each day.
The city prioritizes wheelchair ramps located downtown in their snow and ice procedure, but “wheelchair ramps located outside of downtown are to be cleared by the fronting business or residence.”
When reached out to, neither the City of Victoria, nor District of Saanich offered any comment on the accessibility issue.
However, in most cases, it wasn’t a matter of business owners not plowing their property, but rather where the snow was being plowed.
There is an obvious gap in policy protecting these spaces that are so necessary to Victoria’s disabled community.
In order to avoid this in the future, both Saanich and Victoria need to put bylaws in place that protect handicap parking spots and ensure accessibility during times of heavy snowfall, which is quickly becoming an annual phenomenon in the city.
Snow events may not happen often in Victoria, but when they do, the city needs to be able to continue to offer the tools and resources that allow our disabled to participate in their communities.
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