The George Mackie Library now has better accessibility for wheelchair users as a year of improvements comes to a close, but not every resident is happy with how it turned out.
Over the past year, the City of Delta worked on a number of improvements to make the library more accessible, including the realignment of the doors and wheelchair ramp, the introduction of push button door controls and a redesign of the bathrooms to make them wheelchair accessible.
“We’d heard, for several years, complaints specifically about the George Mackie Library because it’s had a really awkward entrance way,” said Bernita Iversen, manager of corporate policy at the City of Delta.
“Many of the buildings in Delta are quite old, and back in the day when they were constructed there were really no requirements for accessibility and accommodating people in wheelchairs,” she continued. “So, as we get the chance, we’re trying to convert all the buildings to be fully accessible.”
The upgrade included push buttons at the front door, the meeting room door and the foyer door into the library. However, it didn’t include buttons to open the restroom doors, something that Natasha Kaweski said limits the accessibility of the facilities.
“I would like to be able to go somewhere and do things by myself,” 23-year-old Kaweski said. “By having to ask someone to open doors for you — especially with the washroom, it would mean they have to open the doors for you to get in there, and then they would have to wait while you do whatever you’re doing in there … and then they’d have to let you out.
“That would just take away your independence.”
Kaweski comes to the library several times a month. Although she often comes with someone else, there are times when she’d like to go by herself.
“On the rare occasion, especially in the summer, I’ll wheel up or take the bus by myself,” she said. “And, like I said, I would like to be able to do it by myself.”
Kaweski posted her concerns about the library bathrooms on the North Delta Community Corner Facebook page on Jan. 3 after visiting the library that afternoon. That same day, a number of people responded to her post, including wheelchair users, people with walkers and parents with strollers. All said the doors should be made more accessible to people in wheelchairs.
Kaweski and her mother contacted people at the city about the issue, as did a number of others, she said.
According to Iversen, push buttons for the washrooms weren’t included in discussions about the washroom renovations and that no bathrooms in the city’s public buildings have them. She also said the budget for the accessibility renovations wouldn’t have covered the push buttons.
Last year Delta began applying for grants through the Rick Hansen Foundation’s #Access4All initiative to solve access issues. The grant, worth $30,000, allowed Delta to begin construction on the doors and ramp in September 2017.
While construction was underway, the city also discovered the bathrooms were not wheelchair accessible. Delta paid an additional $140,000 to upgrade the washrooms.
“This project started out as a $30,000 grant, and it ended up being a $140,000 plus-washroom renovation that Delta hadn’t really budgeted for,” she said. “So it would have been nice to put the accessibility button on the washroom, but we just didn’t have the budget.”
Iversen said the buttons were something that could be put in during future upgrades, but there would need to be a budget to roll them out across the city.