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NAVIGATING AN IDAHO FALLS Winter with a Disability

I’ve been a full-time wheelchair user since losing my left leg in an auto accident many years ago.

Published in the December 2022 Issue Published online: Dec 06, 2022 Articles
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By Rochelle Esser

I’ve been a full-time wheelchair user since losing my left leg in an auto accident many years ago. Until she passed away earlier this year, I had my service dog, Sweet Pea by my side for 12 years, which was helpful since I was without a personal vehicle until earlier this year.

Before relocating to Idaho Falls, mine and Sweet Pea’s experience traversing ice and snow were limited to a few years spent living in a small mountain community with steep terrain, narrow roads and few sidewalks. This experience left me a bit nervous about braving a new city’s snowy streets after I moved to Idaho Falls. I was unsure just how accessible the sidewalks and ramps would be or how disability access was generally managed here.

For our first time out after a heavy snowfall, I got us both all geared and bundled up to go and set out toward the street. When we reached it, I discovered the early morning plowing had produced solid walls of snow and ice on either side of the driveway. These were quite impressive berms, I had to admit. Sighing, I led Sweet Pea back into our complex for her walk before heading back to our apartment.

From that point on I knew that traveling outside of our complex was going to be challenging during the winter. Anytime there was heavy snowfall, I knew getting a ride from someone or simply staying home instead were really my only options.

I invested in good quality winter gear such as gloves, scarves and earmuffs to keep me warm for the days when I did go out. I also made sure Sweet Pea had her own protective gear, since it’s very with a Disability important to protect our four-legged family members who love us and are deeply devoted to us as well.

As time wore on, I decided to purchase removable cleats for getting over icy ramps and walkways after several close calls. I also used the cleats to assist in propelling and wheeling my wheelchair with my foot when needed since my tires at the time were devoid of any real tread.

Things have been a little easier since purchasing a vehicle of my own earlier this year through the dedicated team at Teton Toyota. Now in my fourth winter in Idaho Falls, I will get to experience what winter driving will be like without steep curves and narrow mountain roads. This is also my first winter without Sweet Pea, so having my own vehicle is bittersweet since she’s not here to enjoy it with me, as she always loved car rides.

The past three winters here without a vehicle were very educational for me. I found out how to use local transportation services, and when necessary, call on the friends I’ve made since coming here for help with rides.

Local transportation services have made my experience much easier. MTM, a non-emergency medical transportation service that offers rides to doctor’s appointments, medical testing and mental health appointments, has been helpful for me. They can be reached at 877-503-1261 or found at mtm-inc.net/Idaho for more information.

Pick Me Up, a locally owned rideshare service is another service I’ve turned to when I need a ride. They can be reached at 208-704-7425.

GIFT (Greater Idaho Falls Transit) is a new rideshare service that’s available within the Idaho Falls city limits. I don’t doubt they’ll be helpful for others managing disabilities. Call them at 208-269-9729 or visit greateriftransit.com for more information.

Whatever you do, bundle up and stay safe when the snow hits!

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