Wheelchairs and snow

Wheelchairs and snow are two things that typically don’t work well together. Well, the snow does fine. It’s the person in the wheelchair who is in peril. Certainly some specialized wheelchairs have been invented that can handle snow, but the average user is quite vulnerable once there is snow on the ground. Front wheels tend to sink in the snow and get stuck. If the ground is uneven, there is the risk of tipping. And of course, icy inclines can lead to sliding and tipping. Falling over when you are unable to protect yourself is terrifying, as you may well know, or can imagine.

Able bodied people crossing a snow covered major intersection in Vancouver, BC.
This looks like a bad place to get stuck, which is likely to happen if you tried to drive your wheelchair across this street.

There is a neat looking invention called Wheelblades, created by a wheelchair user in Germany who struggled through the winters there. Wheelblades are small, modified skis that attach under the front wheels of wheelchairs. We’ve never tried them, but if you live in place where snow comes every winter, it might be helpful.

Vancouver isn’t the place with a winter full of snow – in our winters, snow usually comes briefly, if at all. Protecting yourself from the rain is key here. A waterproof cover for the control box, rain gear and safety gear for visibility are common. So when snow does come to Vancouver, it’s usually extra challenging for people dependent on a wheelchair to get around. If paths aren’t cleared of snow right to the door, wheelchair uses are forced to stay home. It’s something to think about in new developments that include ‘accessible housing’. How will your tenants access the outside world if they can’t travel outside?

Two able bodied people squeeze past each other on a very narrow path where there used to be a sidewalk, now covered in snow.
This sidewalk is not wheelchair accessible.
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Gift Shopping Event

This year CARMA and Resident Council decided to split off the gift giving portion of the annual Christmas party, into a separate event. It was a great success!

We held the event in the Activity Wing, so a bigger space meant more space to spread out items for residents to view. The idea is that you shop for gifts to give to others – but no money is required to make the purchase – it’s all donated for residents to take. Volunteers helped residents select items. There was a gift wrapping station, as well as a card writing station. Funds generated from the Family Room covered postage costs if the resident’s loved one would get the gift or card by mail.

This event was especially helpful for residents who find it difficult or uncomfortable to go out shopping, but still wanted to choose a small gift for someone at Christmas.

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Demolition at Pearson

We knew it was coming…we’ve had so many planning meetings and seen so many maps and memos – but it became real when the first Pearson building came down in August. The first buildings were old buildings – the old boiler house, unused sheds, and the old ‘Ward 7’ which had been rented by outside groups for many years.

We had a celebration in June of the ‘launch’ of redevelopment, and to honour the past. The Polio Pavilion was constructed in 1955 as an addition to George Pearson Centre (Pearson Hospital as it was then called) which was built in 1952. This Polio Pavilion became known as Ward 7 and was soon used as a ventilator ward for more than just polio patients. In the 1990s these residents moved into the main Pearson building, and Ward 7 became a rental space to community groups.

We invited some of the past residents of Ward 7 to spend some moments in that space, to remember, and to say goodbye.

GPC’s old Ward 7 – Polio Pavilion – demolished

The old Boiler Stack at GPC


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Accessible Garden Club continues to Grow

There is a bountiful lush green community garden tucked between buildings containing offices and bedrooms, where Pearson staff work and Pearson residents live. It is wheelchair accessible, with a wide cement patio and heavy equestrian mats between the beds. Residents have their own plot, and from March to October they plan and grow various veggies, fruit and flowers. Gardeners meet weekly, and volunteers help facilitate gardeners as needed. Gardeners choose between ground beds and raised table top beds, like the one below.

Mario’s table top garden has the most amazing snap peas this year. He’s donated a couple pounds of snap peas to the community kitchen!

Snap Peas of Mario!

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Freshly harvested Broccoli into Soup

For community kitchen last month, we turned our Garden Club’s freshly harvested broccoli into a delicious creamy broccoli soup.

We planted these babies last summer and the plants overwintered well – so in March the little sprouting broccoli started to appear, and now in April we are in full harvest mode. The harvest gave us a few pounds altogether.

Because some people are lactose intolerant, we used cannellini beans to make it creamy (and filling) instead of cream or milk. It was a hit. Here’s the basic recipe:

Able Community Kitchen’s Harvest Broccoli Soup

2 lb broccoli


2 yellow onion diced

4 garlic cloves minced

2 x 15-oz can cannellini beans

5 cups vegetable stock / water

Salt n pepper

Shredded cheese for optional topping


  1. Steam broccoli about 3 minutes. Reserve some for garnish
  2. Saute onion in oil about 10 mins, add garlic for 3-5 mins
  3. Add beans and stock, bring to simmer
  4. Add salt and pepper
  5. Remove from heat, add broccoli
  6. Puree until smooth
  7. Garnish each bowl with broccoli and cheese


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Modular Housing Springs Up

Looking south, with George Pearson Centre on the left and new modular homes under construction on the right. The first new neighbours move in within a few weeks.

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Breakfast for Dinner wins again

This time, with photos. We had about 25 people for dinner, more than usual. We ran out of plates! And most of the food. For beverages, we had sparkling apple juice or fresh squeezed orange juice. The pile of oranges was much bigger than this and smelled amazing:

We also made a fruit smoothie using raspberries frozen from last year’s harvest. The residents’ gardens have a giant raspberry patch so we always have plenty to freeze.

We also made pancakes out in the main dining space so we could hand out pancakes as they came hot off the griddle! With those pancakes we had real maple syrup and orange vanilla honey yogurt.

From the oven we served Rosemary Roasted Roots (potatoes, yams & carrots). And of course, bacon – both regular bacon and turkey bacon. We also did eggs to order – fried or omelet. Now that’s something you don’t get on a hospital tray-style meal!

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Parking Lot Redevelopment

The parking lot at the main entrance of Pearson has recently been greatly reduced. We are down to about 40 parking spots – where before there were closer to 100. For now, parking on the street is free so if the lot is full, parking elsewhere isn’t too hard to find.

Watching this structure go up makes the redevelopment real. It will be 2 stories and quite large – too bad it won’t actually house anyone! That will be fulfilled by the new modular housing development that is being built at the corner of Heather and W 59th – due to open in a month or so.

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Temporary Modular Housing in Marpole

Recently, in late October, the City of Vancouver announced, without consultation, that they would be building temporary modular housing next door to George Pearson Centre, at the corner of Heather and W 59th Ave. The space has been unused lawn for as long as anyone can remember.

Looking towards Heather and W 59th Ave


For Pearson folks, it was a bit shocking to learn about something as a done deal, without any prior consultation. But we understand that housing the homeless is something few people advocate for in their back yard. In fact, a lot of the neighbours are protesting against it.

From the City’s website: “Our next housing development will be home to two, three-storey buildings; each with 39 homes (total of 78 homes) for homeless residents….Both buildings will be managed by Community Builders, an experienced supportive and low-income housing provider with 15 years of experience in Vancouver’s urban core area specializing in tenant support for persons with a variety of needs.”

At the recent November 14th Resident Council meeting, George Pearson Centre residents discussed this new development, which is expected to spring up very quickly, to house people this coming winter. Residents have some concerns about what new neighbours will bring, but no one suggested that this shouldn’t happen. We discussed inviting the new neighbours to events at Pearson. Everyone needs a home, said a resident.

It was heart warming to learn that some nearby high school students are standing up for this development, as well. Read more here and here.



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GPC Residents heard at City’s Public Hearing

On July 20, 2017, three GPC Residents were able to go and speak at the City of Vancouver’s public hearing on the rezoning application.

Several more were heard in a new method – pre-recorded video contribution. This enabled people who would not otherwise be heard, to speak up. Many who live at George Pearson Centre cannot easily attend an hours-long hearing in person. Kudos to the City for allowing a new form of contribution – we hope it continues.

Pat, resident of George Pearson Centre, speaks her mind at the Public Hearing.

It is unfortunate that there were no GPC residents present at the 2014 Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement hearing at the City. Their voices were missed, and decisions were made that appear to exclude the wishes of the most vulnerable residents. While the independent housing is welcomed by many, those who prefer larger group living similar to the current Pearson model are left without a home on this site.

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