City denies insensitivity against the disabled

Organization claims it was treated unfairly after request for parking spaces

The City of Vernon is denying there was any insensitivity towards the disabled.

Independent Living Vernon, which represents people with mobility issues, claims it was treated harshly by city staff after requesting that parking be made available at city hall so clients could attend a presentation to council Monday.

“That’s in contradiction to how staff operates. It’s an unfortunate example of miscommunication,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky when asked about the incident.

“Staff worked very hard and accommodated what they wanted.”

There are two existing handicapped parking spaces at the city hall lot and Independent Living asked for an additional eight so clients, some in wheelchairs, could attend the presentation to council.

“When I got an e-mail referring to our group as lobbyists, insulting is the nice word I will use (in response),” said Laura Hockman, Independent Living executive director.

“As property owners, taxpayers and voters, the people who attended would take issue with being called lobbyists.”

Hockman, who appeared before council to talk about disabled access to gas stations, says there is a need for a city committee that looks at all mobility issues and perhaps city staff should undergo sensitivity training.

Marg Bailey, the city’s acting chief administrative officer, says she will investigate Independent Living’s claims but she believes staff followed appropriate actions.

“There was no intent to say anything disparaging,” she said, adding that five additional parking spaces were opened up to the delegation Monday.

Read more in Wednesday’s Morning Star.