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Icy streets pose hurdles to the disabled

Some Long Island sidewalks are still covered with

Some Long Island sidewalks are still covered with several feet of hardened snow, leaving pedestrians with little choice but to walk in the streets because paths haven't been shoveled. Above, a man walks in a traffic lane on Jericho Turnpike in Commack. (Feb. 3, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Mark Drummer is getting cabin fever.

Drummer, 60, has been confined to his house for much of the winter. He uses a wheelchair, but icy streets, snow-covered sidewalks and slush-filled curb cuts have meant that Drummer and many others who use mobility devices are practically trapped in their homes waiting for the thaw.

"As far as going out shopping, to restaurants or taking in a movie, that's not something I've been able to do in the last several months," said Drummer, of Bethpage. "All those things have been put on the back burner until the snow clears and until we have a reasonably decent day. I'm not contributing to the economy as much. And it's depressing just hanging around the house."

These are perennial winter issues for those who use wheelchairs or are otherwise mobility impaired, but Drummer said this winter, with its record-breaking snow that is not melting, has been especially difficult.

"We find that people with disabilities who need to go about their daily lives really are relegated to staying home because they just can't get around," said Therese Brzezinski, director of advocacy and community policy at the Long Island Center for Independent Living in Levittown. "There's definitely a sense of kind of being held prisoner by the weather."

Though laws on the books require homeowners and businesses to clear sidewalks, the paths they clear are often just a shovel's-width wide - too narrow for many mobility devices, said D.M. Bowman, 38, of Levittown, who uses a walker after suffering a spinal injury.

Bowman said she has missed doctor appointments because of the snow, and often has been forced to walk in the streets because of large snowdrifts or unshoveled walkways. "If you walk or don't have transport, there's just no way you can get around this year," she said.

Grant Hayden, a professor of law at Hofstra University, said sidewalks and entryways of places of public accommodation, such as a government building or a private store, must be made accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, enforcement of the provisions of the ADA is by lawsuit. Hayden said he has not heard of any such suits.

Leslie Sussman, whose 13-year-old son, Chad, uses a wheelchair, said she had to keep him in their Sound Beach home during the ice storm this week. "It definitely restricts him. He is a very social kid," Sussman said.

"He's limited from going into stores because it's not shoveled right. It's definitely tough on him."Chad, a seventh-grader at North Country Middle School in Miller Place, said he was upset about missing basketball practice and school. "I was supposed to have a lot to do today and now I can't do it and I have to make it up the next day," Chad said. "All because of the snow and ice."

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