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DeafBlind Chicagoan Says City Lacks Winter-Weather Resources, Residents Can Help

By Elyssa Kaufman, digital producer

CHICAGO (CBS)-- For Garfield Ridge resident Bryen M Yunashko, snowy weather conditions mean he may not be able to leave his house.

Yunashko, is DeafBlind and uses a cane to get around.  With minimal accessible resources from the city, winter travel remains an issue.

"When snow is on the ground, I have no easy way to identify if I am on the sidewalk or lawn," he said.

Yunashko said it is important to remember the 3-1-1 service is not accessible for people in the DeafBlind community. This means he cannot call the city for help on days with heavy snow.

Shockingly, Yunashko said snow plows only worsen the situation.

"They pile snow onto the sidewalks and corner intersections," he told CBS 2 via text. "I have shoveled many a corner and used ice choppers to hurry up and clean it before it gets trampled on and hardened."

As a precaution, Yunashko, a DeafBlind advocate and business owner, stays up-to-date on the latest weather reports to ensure he can get up early and remove the snow.

"I try to get all the sidewalks on my block shoveled before it hardens," he said.

Yunashko explained that his neighbors have cleared their sidewalks, which has helped. However, beyond his block, the issue remains.

"I wish the city would rethink its snow removal strategy to not only benefit drivers, but pedestrians too," he said.

Yunashko explained while the city could do more to help, so can the residents of Chicago. Just taking 20 minutes to shovel could make a big difference.

"Do not presume that just because it is 'city property' you do not have a responsibility to clean your sidewalks," he said. "People with disabilities and the elderly rely on those sidewalks to be able to continue to live independent and empowered lives."

credit bryen m yunashko
(Credit Bryen M Yunashko,) He is wearing a grey suit jacket, red tie and glasses.

The director of advocacy at Access Living Amber Smock said inadequate snow removal continues to be an issue year-after-year.

"The city would be wise to re-evaluate its snow removal plan with an eye to ensuring that accessibility is part of its snow removal practice," Smock said.

The organization believes Chicago should not rely on volunteers, but make a formal commitment to ensure that resources are used to help.

"One portion of unshoveled sidewalk, or a blocked curb cut, can trap a person with a disability in their home for days," the spokesperson said. "This includes people with mobility disabilities, some blind people, DeafBlind persons and people with disabilities that impact energy levels."

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