Public Comment

Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council About Accessibility and Commission Meetings

Mary Behm-Steinberg
Friday June 07, 2019 - 05:17:00 PM

I recently had to be out of town for family matters on the night of a Commission meeting, and I was surprised to learn that Commissioners are no longer able to participate remotely, though they were before. I and many other people with disabilities, work very, very hard to stay informed on the tremendous efforts of other Commissioners, and we do our homework, so we have a lot to contribute. Personally, I have far fewer hours than most people, because I have to spend so much time sick in bed. I don't make a dime for trying to serve my community, and sometimes, it costs me money. So while I'm sure it wasn't your intention in to limit access for people who are physically challenged and their caregivers when you revised the commissioners' handbook, sadly, that is the end result.

I urge you to reconsider that and consider that if you want to be truly inclusive, people with disabilities must be proportionally represented in appointed bodies, and reasonable accommodations must be made. I see the machines that are used for conference calls just lying on tables collecting dust. I'm puzzled as to why this option would have been taken off the table to begin with.

Moreover, Commission meetings should as a matter of course be recorded. As you all know, change is happening at a breakneck pace, and it's impossible even for able-bodied people to be in 3 places at once. A truly open and inclusive city government should be recording public meetings for anyone, especially now, when so many are occurring simultaneously.

I appreciate that you're all working very hard, and this is overwhelming. Which is exactly why more community participation can help, especially in a community as rich in talent and diversity as ours. Please make this easy change promptly so that we can all contribute a Berkeley that's livable for everyone.