PORTLAND, Maine — Navigating Portland is difficult for people who use wheelchairs or walkers any time of year, but it's especially difficult during the winter.
Snow, slush and ice present major obstacles for people who use wheelchairs to get around.
Patricia Washburn is a disabled worker living in Portland. Washburn has a hereditary fat disorder that prevents her from losing weight.
Washburn started using a wheelchair in the spring and says it's daunting to think about navigating Portland after a winter storm. "I'm looking down this sidewalk and I'm seeing, well, okay, I could get by that house, but after that, it gets a little dicey."
Patricia Washburn says the winter mess on the ground makes Portland's already challenging brick and cobblestone streets even more difficult to navigate.
"The brick sidewalks get frost heaves, they get worn down, they get rough, tree roots grow up under them and they get all bumpy. And when snow complicates that, it increases the number of times we have to be out in the road. We don't like that, drivers don't like it."
Portland resident John Brown uses a walker. He says when sidewalks aren't fully cleared, he too is forced to move into the road to get where he needs to go.
"It's better to go out near the road, and I had to go out right near the traffic," Brown said.
The city of Portland is responsible for clearing 114 miles of sidewalks, including Portland's downtown. However, residents are responsible for clearing many of Portland's sidewalks.
Disability groups recommend shoveling a 42 inch path after snow falls. A path this size helps people who use wheelchairs, walkers, and even the parents pushing their kids in a stroller.
Washburn says good samaritans will ensure not only their property, but surrounding properties are cleared. "Check the sidewalks around you, not just in front of your property. You could be doing someone a big favor so they can get all the way down the street."
In Portland, grabbing that shovel isn't just an act of goodwill. Business owners and property owners can be fined by the city for not cleaning up snow and ice from their property.
Business owners in Portland have 12 hours following a winter storm to clear snow and ice from adjacent sidewalks.
Residential property owners are given an 18 hour grace period after a storm ends.