By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
For disabled people, the winter months present unique challenges relating to their transportation needs. Cold temperatures, icy conditions, and massive snowfalls negatively impact those with disabilities and their ability to go where they please when they please. Sherbrooke residents with disabilities rely more on paratransit services during the colder months, putting added pressure on the public transit system.
“In the summer, you can go anywhere”, says France Croteau, since sidewalks tend to be clear of obstacles. But during winter, sidewalks become hazardous for people with disabilities. Snowfall has to be removed quickly, and surfaces treated to prevent the buildup of ice. This rarely happens, with Sherbrooke inconsistently clearing and treating its sidewalks throughout the winter.
Croteau is a member of the Regroupent des usagers du transport adapté de Sherbrooke Metropolitain (RUTA), an advocacy group dedicated to protecting the rights of disabled transit users, and is the group’s treasurer. According to statistics from Transport Quebec, STS paratransit users include more than just those using wheelchairs or walkers. Some have visual, mental, or psychological disabilities. They are of any age, including one person in the 1-5 age range in 2021 who was admitted to STS paratransit.