• John Jantak

Wheelchair-bound resident pleads with Ste. Anne’s council to repair cobblestone sidewalk


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Ste. Anne’s resident Paul Schneider is hopeful the city will repair the cobblestone sidewalk on Maple Street soon. He told council about the dangers he faces when navigating his wheelchair because tree roots have caused large, uneven mounds resulting in ruts between the cobblestones.

A wheelchair-bound Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue resident made an impassioned plea to council to have the cobblestone sidewalk on the east side of Maple Street repaired to prevent his wheelchair from possibly tipping over and causing personal injury. The request was made during the monthly council meeting on Monday, August 19.

Paul Schneider, 39, has been disabled for the past 15 years and uses his wheelchair to get around the village. He said using a wheelchair has given him a different perspective about mobility issues that most people don’t see.

Shifting cobblestones

Schneider’s concern is that the tree roots on a property on Maple have grown too large. The enlarging root system under the sidewalk resulted in the cobblestones slowly shifting upwards over time. This created large ruts between the cobblestones. This means he has to navigate cautiously around the mounds when out in his wheelchair.

Schneider worries a wheel could wedge itself into one of the large cracks leading to a fall. He’s also concerned the same thing could happen to parents who use strollers to bring their young children to the nearby daycare.

“I feel that because I’m in a wheelchair and have been for a while, I’m more observant than people who are not in wheelchairs. People who push babies in strollers don’t necessarily think about that because they’re more able-bodied to react to the situation,” said Schneider.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

A section of damaged cobblestone sidewalk on Maple Street in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is presenting challenges to those with reduced mobility and anyone pushing a baby stroller.

Councillors very empathetic

All five councillors present at the meeting, including Ryan Young who served as pro-mayor during an absence by Mayor Paola Hawa, were very empathetic towards his plight. “I agree with you, the condition of that sidewalk is not good,” said Ryan.

“It’s definitely good you brought it to our attention because I’ve noticed it, but you’re first person who’s come to a council meeting and directly complained about that sidewalk. You’re right. I personally would like to see that we do consult somebody and even yourself about how to make it more wheelchair-friendly,” Ryan added.

Schneider thanked Ryan for the consultation offer.

“I’d be very glad to be there for the community to evaluate the situation when the time comes. I’m living proof of this reality. I have knowledge that you only get from experience,” said Schneider.

After the meeting, all five councillors met with Schneider to discuss the situation further. Councillor Juneau said he’s become more aware of mobility issues facing the disabled ever since his mother became wheelchair bound after recently suffering a stroke.

Quick evaluation proposed

Ryan couldn’t give a firm answer as to whether the city would make repairing the sidewalk on Maple a priority because Mayor Hawa and Councillor Yvan Labelle were absent, but said the entire council would evaluate the situation as quickly as possible.

“All of us who were at the meeting are going to push for trying to at least repair the parts of the sidewalk that are dangerous. There are parts that are actually in good condition but there are parts where there are big ruts that are dangerous for strollers and wheelchairs. I think we can look at that right away and fix that before we wait for the entire sidewalk to be redone,” said Young during a telephone interview on Tuesday.

‘Urgency factor is quite high’

Schneider is confident council will respond to his request to have the sidewalk repaired soon. “I believe they will because they see the need for it to happen,” he said. “We want to be proactive in society to prevent bad accidents from happening. Considering I live next to a daycare, I believe the urgency factor is quite high on this matter.”

The situation has also made Schneider consider doing advocacy work to support people in wheelchairs. “I want to promote wheelchair accessibility in Canada,” he said.

“I look at the United States with the American Disability Act and with time I’d like to try to put it in Canada. In the United States it’s more cohesive and everybody has the same standard they have to follow whereas in Canada, every province is different,” Schneider added.

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