Main Content:
OT students shoveling snow on Hot Metal Bridge

On Thursday night, the Hot Metal Bridge was anything but hot–with temperatures below freezing and several inches of snow and ice that had accumulated on the sidewalk, posing a big problem for wheelchair users who needed to cross the bridge. But where accessibility is a problem, Pittsburgh can count on the Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) to offer a solution!

A group of over 24 Occupational Therapy students rallied together with “shovels, salt and grit,” according to Department Chair Elizabeth Skidmore, to clear a safe path across the bridge for their classmate, Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) student Christie Cyktor, who uses a power wheelchair.

Cyktor spent hours of her own time on Wednesday reaching out to the City to request that they clear the sidewalks to no avail. That’s when she turned to her classmates for support.

"Many of our calls were met with us being passed off to another number," said OTD student Anastasia Dolan. "After offices started closing for the day, we realized that the bridge would likely remain inaccessible if we did not intervene."

“People brought their own shovels, knocked on neighbors' doors asking for shovels, went out and purchased salt. They worked tirelessly for hours clearing snow and ice so that the bridge was not only accessible for me, but all pedestrians,” said Cyktor.

"No part of me felt surprised. Witnessing so many Pitt OT students come together just confirmed for me that I chose the right career path and school," echoed Dolan. "Everybody knew that what was happening wasn't right, saw what needed to be done, so we did it."

True to the SHRS approach of problem-solving, their action was coupled with advocacy. Students reached out to local city officials to bring the issue to their attention and establish more lasting solutions.

“We’ve called the city several times,” OTD student Quinne Johnson told KDKA.

“Sidewalks and walkways need to be accessible for all for a simple reason: it's a basic human right,” explained Cyktor. “Everyone should have the same opportunity to access the city in whatever way they need to. Roadways are treated in order for cars to travel, and sidewalks and bridges should be treated the same way.”

City Councilman Bruce Kraus responded to the concerns on Friday, indicating that City Council has communicated with the Director of Public Works.

“This has been corrected and properly assigned so that this will not happen in the future,” said Kraus.

“We celebrate these students because they didn’t stop at identifying a problem,” acknowledged Skidmore. “They persisted and worked collaboratively toward an immediate solution and long-term change.”

"Our OT students make us very Pitt Proud and are the definition of ‘bold moves'," added OTD Program Director Denise Chisholm. "Their bold actions not only changed the world for their friend and fellow OT student, but for everyone crossing the Hot Metal Bridge today."

“I was overwhelmed by the response of my OT classmates,” said Cyktor. “As occupational therapy students, it's engrained in us to advocate for others. One of the foundations of occupational therapy is the belief that everyone, regardless of their abilities, should have the same opportunity to engage in their daily activities as anyone else. And if that basic need isn't met, then an OT will find a way to make it happen.”