Barriers to accessibility at Calgary's new Central Library

Some Calgarians are raising concerns over accessibility at Calgary's new Central Library.

Ground-level light fixtures, buttons placed too high and lack of handrails among concerns

Sean Crump says Calgary's new Central Library may be beautiful, but it also has barriers to accessibility. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Some Calgarians are raising concerns over accessibility at Calgary's new Central Library.

The library has welcomed about 115,000 visitors since its opening nearly two weeks ago. But some say they've found it "discouraging" how difficult it can be to navigate the space.

"I think it's a landmark for Calgary to be proud of. Unfortunately, I think they missed the mark in terms of accessibility and in terms of being able to reach the entire community of Calgary," said Sean Crump, head chair and CEO of Universal Access, a company that consults on and certifies accessible buildings.

"I think architecture is where functionality meets design and if you're not accessible to the entire community I think you've fallen short on the functionality side."

Crump uses a motorized wheelchair.

Sean Crump said he can't reach the security button to access the elevator from his wheelchair. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

During a recent meeting he couldn't get into a board room because the access panel was placed too high. His wheelchair got stuck on raised ground-level light fixtures. And, a security button he needed to use the elevator was out of reach.

"These oversights, today, are inexcusable," he said.

There were also worries that the sloped sidewalk on the west side of the building is too long, and doesn't feature any handrails.

Another wheelchair user, Kay Rankin, said she loves the new building and thinks the design is lovely — other than the self-checkout.

Kay Rankin said she can't reach the self-checkout screen from her wheelchair. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

"It's too far to reach to put in your passcode. I can't reach the touchscreen," she said.

"I'm just wondering, did they ask someone in a wheelchair?"

Sarah Meilleur, director of service delivery at the library, said they followed building codes and worked with city accessibility experts prior to the building's opening, but they have already identified some concerns they're working to address.

Meilleur said she encourages anyone who felt overwhelmed by the crowds in the first few days of the library's opening to come back, and keep providing feedback.

Strollers block the ramp that leads to different levels of Calgary's Central Library. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

"Continue to give us feedback along the way, because when people are in the building and tell us suggestions that's the best way for us to respond," she said.

"We really want this to be a building for everyone."

With files from Jennifer Lee


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