Council chambers ‘sorely lacking’ – Samson

Council chambers should use universal standards, councillor says

City council will consider upgrading the council chambers at City Hall to make the room more accessible to those with disabilities.

The initiative came from Coun. Larry Samson who said City Hall is not accessibly-friendly.

“Things like the council chambers should use universal standards,” said Samson who noted that council is inadvertently excluding certain members of the community.“We’re sorely lacking in here in that our sound system does not allow for people with declining loss of hearing or people with other problems that allows them to participate in the council meetings.”

Samson noted that there are also issues with the public washrooms located in the basement of City Hall.

“Washroom facilities for people with disabilities is sadly lacking at City Hall,” he said. “We don’t have any automatic door openings. It’s another thing we should be looking at.”

Samson said he’d also like to see the council chambers re-configured so that everyone has access and everyone can clearly hear – and see – what’s going on.

“People that sit at the delegation table sit with their back to the audience,” Samson said. “When we have large delegations they have to be out into the hallways instead of having the ability to open up the back wall to actually allow the people to actually be participating in the meeting.”

Looking around the council chambers at the Aug. 24 council meeting, Samson said he’d also like to see the city’s wood-first policy incorporated into any renovations within the council chambers.

“I look at the concrete beams up here and I think ‘why can’t we have a wood-first policy’?” said Samson who added he’d like to see his suggestions taken into consideration during council’s budget planning meetings for next year.

“The Nov. 23 council meeting allows it to be prepared prior to our 2016 financial deliberations because it will be a service level change, but I think it’s something that is long overdue.”

In the end, council agreed with Samson’s points and voted to have city staff come back with a report on different design costs and options to upgrade council chambers.

The design options are expected to incorporate the following:

n The concept of universal standards which will allow the use of council chambers to be usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

n The use of further technological changes such as paperless agendas.

n A modernization of the chambers incorporating a wood first policy.

n The expansion of the gallery’s seating capacity for larger participation.