Seattle Council Chamber Upgrades Mean More People Can Participate

The meeting space for the Seattle City Council has recently undergone a critical acoustical upgrade, providing enhanced audio service for members of the hearing loss community. The City Hall Council Chambers—which plays host to full Council and Council committee meetings, as well as civic gatherings, events, and presentations such as the State of the City and the Mayor's budget unveiling—is a location meant to serve all Seattleites, and it is a priority of our Councilmembers to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in and hear Council proceedings.

Click on the image above to see the Seattle City Clerk's new Accommodations and Accessibility web page—a good model for other public agencies.

City staff engaged with constituents and agencies serving populations with hearing loss, who conveyed that the upgraded assistive listening system was a top priority and deemed a critical enhancement. As a result of this community engagement, Seattle City Council Chambers underwent a renovation and now hosts an upgraded speaker system and FM assistive listening system.

The engaged community and agencies made a valuable difference and offered a series of additional recommendations for enhancing accommodations. The City project team listened closely, and the following steps were taken:

Seattle City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons and her staff facilitate and support City legislative processes, provide access to the City's official records, preserve Seattle's history, and work to ensure transparency and accessibility to information and services.

Ensuring Legislative staff received the appropriate training was also an important part of the City's improvement process. Northwest ADA Center director Michael Richardson provided department-wide training, which included an overview of Title II of the ADA and how to best interact with individuals who have disabilities.

The City of Seattle recognized the importance of being informed by those who know best. We hope to serve as an inspiration for other cities by championing awareness, inclusiveness and action, and become the gold standard. To do that, we must continue our engagement with the community we serve.

Contributor Seattle City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons is committed to advancing principles of open government and inclusive access, and ensuring that the highest standards are met throughout the legislative process and management of public records. Monica has served the City of Seattle since 2010 and is currently president-elect for the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, an education-based organization and the leading professional association serving the needs of 10,000 municipal members and allied associations from cities and towns worldwide.

Editor's note: The Seattle City Council's commitment to hearing accessibility extended to installation of a hearing loop in the Council Chamber in August 2015. For more information, visit the Seattle City Clerk's Accessibility and Requests for Accommodations webpage (click on Assistive Listening Devices).