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Snowy sidewalks make commuting in a wheelchair impossible

Every time it snows, the city turns into a difficult place to get around if you rely on a wheelchair and sidewalks.

DENVER — Every step is a challenge. Every curb is a roadblock. On days that it snows, the city can feel daunting.

"Really hard," said Jose Torres Vega who uses a wheelchair to get around. "It’s very frustrating."

While the snow may delay the commute for many, for others it makes traveling even just a short distance impossible. Our neighbors in wheelchairs rely on people to shovel their sidewalks so they can make it through the snow.

Torres Vega has spent his entire life in a wheelchair. This time of year brings with it challenges around every corner that can be insurmountable.

Even on a sidewalk that’s mostly shoveled, his wheelchair is no match for mother nature. 

"I’m always thinking oh my god I’m going to get stuck. Oh my god I’m not going to be able to get here or there," Torres Vega said. "If I was on my own, I could not make it. If I try, the wheelchair does not go anymore."

The city plows the main streets and often the sidewalks, but on residential sidewalks the responsibility falls on the homeowners.

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Torres Vega works for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition which advocates for people in wheelchairs. He often talks to lawmakers and city officials about making sure the sidewalks are clear. Still, he said this is just one challenge many people in wheelchairs face trying to get around. 

"If the sidewalk has a pile of snow this high, no wheelchair will go through. No matter how powerful the wheelchair is or how heavy, it will either get stuck or flip over," Torres Vega said. "I can do less things during the winter than during the summer."

He asks that the next time you’re shoveling, think of him and the sidewalk he has to make it through. 

"In Denver, people care enough that they will stop their cars in the middle of traffic and they come to help," Torres Vega said. "Some people are really nice and do a really good job. Some people are not and don’t even think about it."

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