City Scrambles To Make Council Chambers Accessible To New
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 18, 2005
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA--Last week, voters in Birmingham's District 7 overwhelmingly elected Miriam Witherspoon to the City Council.
This week, city officials are scrambling to make changes to the raised platform where the Council meets so Witherspoon, who uses an electric wheelchair, can participate on an equal level with other councilors.
"Certainty it's not going to seem right, all of them sitting on the dais and I'm sitting down on the floor," she told the Birmingham News.
"This should have been done years ago and it was unfortunate that someone with a disability elected to office had to come to get this done," added Witherspoon, a former Ms. Wheelchair Alabama.
In July of this year, the city settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, agreeing to bring city buildings, infrastructure and facilities into compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. That agreement did not include making the dais in the council chambers accessible.
Witherspoon, whose spinal cord was damaged in an auto accident 17 years ago, said she plans to use her experiences to bring attention to the needs of citizens that have disabilities during her term, which begins November 22.
"I have two perspectives, I know what it is like to be able-bodied and I know what it's like to be physically challenged," she said. "I'll do everything I can to make life easier for people with disabilities."
"Incoming councilor must clear dais hurdle; Witherspoon waits for city to make platform accessible" (Birmingham News)