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Utah woman in wheelchair reminds community the importance of clearing sidewalks

Posted at 9:56 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 23:58:27-05

LAYTON, Utah — As we continue to clear out the snow around our houses this winter, one woman is asking you to remember her and her community.

The freshly fallen snow can look magical when you’re an “able-bodied” person, but for Christi Christiansen, it looks like her way of getting around is blocked.

“I’ll start going and halfway through it will just completely get stuck,” said Christiansen.

Christiansen is not referring to driving her car out on the roads; she’s talking about using her wheelchair out on the sidewalks.

“There are sidewalks all over town that are just completely snowed in,” said Christiansen.

This was something she may not have paid attention to until doctors gave her a wheelchair a year ago.

Christiansen is a part-time wheelchair user. She can walk around her home but needs the wheelchair out in public to keep her safe.

Christiansen was diagnosed with epilepsy and a nervous system disorder called POTS, which means her body doesn’t regulate body temperature or blood flow regularly, causing her to pass out.

“I was once very independent and very strong,” said Christiansen. “Then I had to sit down and tell myself, 'That’s enough.' That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

It’s why Christiansen has her service dog, Danny, always with her and why clearing the sidewalks after a winter storm can make all the difference.

If Christiansen gets stuck while trying to make her way into town, she can get up and push herself but sometimes ends up passing out or collapsing on the ground.

A Layton City spokesperson said they have an ordinance in place that requires business owners to have their walks shoveled within 12 hours of the latest snowstorm, but Christiansen said she wishes more would follow through with it.

“It becomes really difficult, even scary and embarrassing,” said Christiansen.

Wheeling through freshly fallen snow, Christiansen hopes others will remember those who need a clear path.

“A common courtesy from businesses, from the neighborhood, would make it just so much easier for me to feel just that one shred of self-esteem,” she said. “I guess that’s really what it is for the disabled community, that self-esteem to just be able to go to the store on your own.”