BESB: Using Readers

Reprinted with Permission from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind


If having difficulty traveling on sidewalks due to lack of shoveling, contact the City or Town Hall to find out what is their sidewalk snow removal policy.  Advocate for enforcement of snow sidewalk removal laws!  If there are no local polices contact local Commission on Disability to develop one.  Sidewalks are considered a public accommodation under the ADA.

Dress for the Weather

   Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
Wear a hat. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

Winter Outerwear Resources

(No Endorsement Implied!)

Footwear:    YakTrax (slip-over device for your shoes/boots)  or available from Campmor: 888-226-7667 or    


Ice Treads Slip-on Cleats  Spiky Safety Treads
STABILicers:        800-782-2423

Also check out hiking or outdoor catalogs or stores such as:
    LL Bean:   800-441-5713
    Cabelas:    800-237-4444
    The Sportsmanís Choice: 800-888-3060


Will also be able to find walking sticks at these type of stores

Flip-up Ice Spikes for Support Canes:    Ambutech: 800-561-2240 or check local Pharmacy  or low vision catalogs

Reflective Clothing:

Mittens:     Mobility Mitten: Knitted Mitten with a hole at the top for a long cane to slide through-order from the Maryland School for the Blind, O&M Dept. 410-444-5000.

Guide Dog Winter Resources 

Reflective Clothing for People & Dogs: 

RoadRunner Sports: 800-636-2560

Harness Mitt: Fits over a harness handle: 

Protection for Dog's feet/paws: Chemicals and salt used to de-ice roads can cause irritated and sore paw pads.  Wash and dry your dog's paws to prevent irritation and to ensure that your dog doesn't lick chemicals from paws.  Check out dog websites for the following brand products:  Encourage folks to use calcium chloride as the ice melter.  

Fuf-Foot: A Foot Conditioner

Protecta-Pad Cream: prevents drying & cracking of pads on field & working dogs.

Musher's Secret: waxbased  formula created to toughen, strengthen and protect the feet of sled dogs. or call 800-381-7179.

Dog Paw Botties: How to make your own: 

Chinookwind: 866-626-1099
(Also check out sled dog websites and/or catalogs.

Always have a back up cane at work, home or carry one with you.  Even if a guide dog user!

Suggestions for Walking in the Winter Months: 

Walk like a Penguin: keep your knees loose, extend arms to the sides to keep balance (Adapt this technique when using a cane)  (Canadian Safety Council)

Point feet out slightly (Toes out)

Bend knees slightly and walk flat-footed, donít take long strides or run. 

Take short steps or shuffle

Avoid boots with smooth soles and heels

Walk slower-plan for your route to take a longer time. 

Dress in Layers:

Base layer should wick sweat away from your body to keep skin dry

Hat:  Try different types to choose one that will provide comfort but allow for hearing of traffic.

Neck gaiter, ski mask, scarf

Sunscreen & lip protector

Waterproof shoes or boots:

Socks: use heavier or wear two pairs for more insulation-however be sure your foot fits comfortably in the boot. 

Have a good reason to go out in bad weather

Have knowledge of several alternative routes:

Understand the effects of the sun in regards to melting & refreezing issues on the sidewalks one travels.

Donít travel close to building lines due to falling ice or snow.

To climb over a snowbank, one should turn sidewalks and walk up sideways, slowly in order to maintain balance.

One must be very careful in locating curb & curbcuts at street crossings, just because there is an opening doesnít mean that is the correct place to cross. 

Carry hand or toe warmers packets with you 

Sunglasses may be needed due to snow glare

Be prepared to walk slower & realize your time distance will be off. 

Be prepared for the unexpected.

Always check on the wind chill factor: frostbite can occur very quickly on any exposed skin without one being aware. 

Be prepared to walk though snow drifts, puddles and on ice.  Carry a knapsack or fanny back to carry items which may assist you in keeping your balance and will stay with you if you do fall. 

If having trouble with balance- bring another long cane (with a pencil tip), ski pole or walking pole to assist with balance and to check out snow drifts.  

Wear bright clothes, so cars can see you. 

Remember cars have less ability to brake and may not have good control in the snow and ice. 

Be aware of the traffic flow changes before or after a street is plowed.

One may want to travel later in the day when the sidewalks are cleared. 

If it snows when you are out be aware that your route will now be different than when you left in the morning.  Have a back up plan, use of Para-transit, cabs, list of family or friends who can assist with transportation. 

Be aware landmarks will change: 

May follow walking path in the snow, but realize that it may not take you to where you usually cross. 

Traffic sounds may be muffed due to snow on streets. 

Grass areas may harden, making them harder to detect from the sidewalk. 

Landmarks may not be found due to snow or ice. 

Wind, snow and/or rain will make hearing traffic more difficult 

There may be less traffic during bad weather, causing alignment issues. 

Be aware of the snow removal policies in your town and where you travel on a regular basis

Questions to ask before going out: 

Do I really need to go out? 

What are the conditions of the sidewalks & streets? 

Have footpaths been established on walking routes?

Are the sidewalks shoved?

Are snowbanks present?

What type of snow?  Light, heavy & wet or icy?

Always check the windchill factors. 

If you need to go out be prepared! Always dress warmer than you think you will need.  If waiting for a bus, it can get quite cold waiting for a period of time outdoors, than when someone is walking.


From the Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI) Project of the National Organization on Disability at , learn about the types of hazards that are most likely to affect your community.


Get informed about what emergency preparedness and response plans currently exist, and how that will impact you. Contact your local Emergency Management Agency for more information.


Find out what emergency shelters are in your community and if any are for special/medical needs; find their locations and choose at least three that are close by.


Get informed about what accessible transportation is available during emergencies and how you will be able to access those services. Note: During emergencies all transportation becomes limited. Get informed now and make alternate plans!


Find out where to get alert and notification information. Is it from the TV? Radio? Internet? Is this information accessible to you now? If not, you cannot expect that it will be during an emergency.


BE PREPARED: How cold is it?  The first line of protection is to be aware of weather forecasts and prepared for days when you are unable to go shopping, keep medical appointments and get to personal and social appointments. Find out how cold it will be by listening to, reading or watching the weather forecast, and remaining indoors during very cold weather. Make sure to pay attention to the Wind Chill, which is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin by combined effects of wind and cold. 


What do I wear to stay warm? When itís very cold, make sure to dress in warm, dry clothes. You should wear a hat, layers of loose-fitting clothing, a scarf, mittens, thick pants, heavy socks, and closed-in shoes or boots.

Stay Safe in the Snow and Ice

Avoid over exerting yourself. Shoveling is very strenuous exercise and can quickly take a toll on your body. Ask someone to shovel for you if you are at high risk of a heart attack or other injury. If you must shovel, always go slowly, take breaks, drink a lot of water, dress warmly, lift carefully and stop if you have any pain or exhaustion.

Try to stay indoors when the weather is very bad. If you need to leave your home, try to use public transportation. If a family member or friend must drive, make sure that they are well stocked with:

  • A full tank of gas;
  • An emergency winter storm kit (flashlight, flares, candle, first-aid kit, tow line or rope, paper towels);
  • Sand or kitty litter for traction;
  • A windshield scraper and de-icer;
  • Cell phone and/or an emergency radio; and,
  • Blanket, gloves, socks, hat and boots.

Stock Up For Snowy Days

Big snow storms can stop us in our tracks and keep us indoors. Elders should always be prepared to remain inside their homes for a few days. Make sure you have these items in your home to be best prepared for a big storm:

  • Emergency phone numbers and contact information (doctor, family, friends, neighbors, police, fire, board of health;
  • Extra medications: prescription and over the counter;
  • First-Aid Supplies (bandages, tape, gauze, anti-bacterial ointment, alcohol, cold pack);
  • A 3-day supply of non-perishable foods and drinks (1 gallon of water per person and extra for pets, ready-to-eat canned meat, fruit, vegetables, snack bars, cereal, juice, powdered milk);
  • Battery operated flash lights, radio, manual can opener, lighter, cash;
  • Hand sanitizer, paper products and garbage bags; and,
  • Clean, warm clothes and footwear and blankets/sleeping bags.

Stay Healthy During Flu Season

It is not too late to get vaccinated. February is when the flu season is at its height. Contact your health care provider about getting a flu shot and a pneumococcal (pneumonia) shot.

Ask Yourself: Who Is Looking Out For Me?

  • In bad weather, tell a friend, family member, or neighbor where they will be able to find you. Ask them to call you regularly to check on your well-being. Tell them where an extra key is located so that they can get into your home in the event of an emergency.
  • If you have special health needs such as oxygen, contact your police station and let them know you may need assistance if the power fails.


Adapted from the FEMA:

 Before Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Add the following supplies to your disaster supplies kit:

        Ice Melter with calcium chloride (CaC12) which is the best choice for the environment, plants and grass and animals.  Rock salt is not a good choice to use to melt ice on walkways due to environment issues.

        Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.


Prepare your home and family

    Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

     Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.

Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.

Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.

Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.


Drivers Resources:


Drivers should be prepared: for additional information also go to the National Safety Council Web site:


Always clear snow off car roofs to avoid snow & ice blowing off & damaging other cars on the highway.


ďHow to prepare your carĒ from FEMA:

        Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.

Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.

Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.

Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.

Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.

Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.

Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.

Thermostat - ensure it works properly.

Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.

Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.

      Place a winter emergency kit in each car that includes: a shovel, windshield scraper and small broom, flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries,  water, snack food, matches, extra hats, socks and mittens, First aid kit with pocket knife, Necessary medications, blanket(s), tow chain or rope, Ice melter and sand, booster cables, emergency flares, fluorescent distress flag, etc.

Content Last Modified on 12/7/2009 1:26:45 PM