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Montreal Paralympian says abysmal sidewalk snow clearing hurts people with disabilities

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As the heavy snow fell in Montreal on Monday, Paralympic boccia athlete Alison Levine couldn't help but roll her eyes.

She knew the sidewalks around her Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) home would not be cleared well enough for someone using a wheelchair.

"I know when winter comes it's a few months of lost independence. It's upsetting," she said. "A lot of the time, it's not my disability that prevents me from doing things. It's the lack of accessibility."

She says she did try to take her dog out once but quickly realized it wasn't a good idea.

IN PHOTOS: Blanket of snow in Montreal

Levine says since then, she's been stuck inside her home, unable to manoeuvre the less-than-stellar job snow removers did on the sidewalks.

"It's not only not safe, it's just physically impossible," said the athlete, adding she has had to ask her mother to come help her. "From what I see, they haven't come once to clear the sidewalk. It's completely impacted."

Alison Levine's wheelchair spins in the snow.Levine lives in a building of 15 apartments specially adapted for people with physical disabilities.

The 33-year-old says she doesn't understand why her residence isn't prioritized for snow clearing.

"It's not like we're 1,000 on the Island of Montreal," she told CTV News. "If we need to be evacuated quickly, that's not happening. It's not safe and it's also just reinforcing the message that we're second-class citizens."

Monday, about 25 cm of snow fell in Montreal, cutting power to more than 110,000 Hydro-Quebec customers.

At the height of the snowfall, City of Montreal spokesperson Philippe Sabourin asked for patience.

"We have to do the job on a network composed of 6,000 km of sidewalk and 4,000 km of street," he said. "We cannot be everywhere at the same time. We have to go one street after another."

IN PHOTOS: Blanket of snow in Montreal

Levine says she has been patient, but it's been two days and the situation has not improved.

"They just dont care," she shrugged. "There's still that stigma that people with disabilities don't work or don't have lives or children or do anything for society, so why would we prioritize them?"

According to Info-Neige, 21 per cent of the streets in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough have been cleared as of Wednesday morning.

It doesn't carry data on sidewalk clearing.

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