Southwest B.C.’s first big snowstorm of the year brought with it the usual grumbles and moans about cleaning sidewalks.
But for those with accessibility concerns, shovelling snow can present a major challenge.
For one Vancouver man, necessity became the mother of invention. Paul Rebucal says he created a snow shovel that he could use as he gets older.
“I need to do that because I have to save my back,” Rebucal told CBC News. “I’m already a senior, so I’m very prone to accidents.”
The shovel, made almost entirely with recycled materials, is the latest brainchild of Rebucal, who recently retired from his job as a building custodian at John Norquay Elementary in Vancouver.
The wheeled shovel has users push down on a roller-style handlebar to scoop up snow. They can then roll it to the side of the sidewalk or road and use a lever attachment to dump the snow out.
The device reduces the amount of brute force needed to operate a snow shovel, as there is very little lifting and upper arm strength needed.
He says he built the shovel largely out of repurposed objects he found lying around the school where he worked. The metal handle was taken from an electrician who didn’t need it and the shovel’s scoop consists of a hand-moulded garbage can lid.
“I just buy the cable,” he said of an item needed for the lever attachment. “It’s mostly junk.”
“This is like a prototype — it’s not, like, actually [a] working model, but I can still improve it.”
For those with mobility issues, piled-up snow can be more than an occasional nuisance, it can also pose a safety risk.
Tanelle Bolt, a design and accessibility consultant based in Langford, B.C., says that municipalities should do more to enforce fines for those who do not shovel snow, and step up snow-plowing efforts.
“Physical movement is very important to your overall well-being and having a social network and the ability to go and be social and enjoy the outdoors,” she told BC Today host Michelle Eliot on Thursday.
The shovel is just the latest invention from Rebucal, who is originally from the Philippines.
Among his other inventions is a lunch table lifter, which uses hockey sticks and a large lever to make it easier and safer to fold school lunch tables.
“It’s a hobby for me,” Rebucal said. “It motivates me to go to work every day. It’s like going to work and playing [with] my toys.
“When I was a kid, I [didn’t] have the luxury of buying that. I make my own toys back home when I was a boy.”
He says in 1982 he was the first person in the Philippines to patent a folding bicycle, which helped him get around traffic congestion more easily.
Another invention is the “duster buster,” a vacuum tube that helps clean off ceiling dusters.
“My inventions, my creativity within the school, helps me to maintain my sanity,” the retired custodian said. “Work is … custodial and janitorial and sometimes it’s not fun. But because of my invention, I have fun.”
Rebucal retired on Dec. 29, but not before he had the opportunity to speak to students about his inventions and the importance of creativity.
“Make always the world a better place than when you started,” he said.