New Edinburgh Councillor Kayleigh O'Neill shares her struggles navigating City Chambers in wheelchair

An Edinburgh councillor and wheelchair user who visited the city chambers after she was elected for the first time last week has spoken out about the lack of accessibility at the building.

By Anna Bryan
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 11:37 am

Green councillor Kayleigh O'Neill said she was left “exhausted and annoyed” after having visited the chambers to complete her induction tasks. She said she had difficulty navigating the chambers’ tight corridors and cluttered offices.

The new councillor said that one floor she needed to access was inaccessible by lift on Monday. She described the lifts she did use as “very small”, and said that none had audio announcements for those who are visually impaired.

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Councillor O’Neill also took note of issues with fire safety. She wrote: “As a wheelchair user, I should have had conversations and forms put in place before my induction day that explain what will happen in an emergency.

"Instead, I was told that no one knew who would help me in an emergency, that no one knew the best escape routes, and no one knew where Evac-chairs or fire safe corridors were.”

She also faced difficulties on her journey to the City Chambers. She said: “I had to get two buses and roll 15 mins to the City Chambers today over so many cobblestones which is quite a difficulty as a wheelchair user with pain issues.”

She said that during her time as a councillor, she hoped to further highlight these issues and spark change to help other people.

Councillor Kayleigh O'Neill questioned why more hadn't been done to make Edinburgh's City Chambers accessible for disabled people.

She continued: "It is tiring being the only or the first or one of the first people to do something. I hope that the work I will do in council to make it more accessible will make it easier for the next people coming in.”

In February, Councillor O’Neill called for “massive change” to help those who felt unheard in the Capital.

She said: “The Edinburgh I want to build is one that has better access to health and social care services and to amenities and activities that improve every person’s well-being.

“By putting the needs of those whose voices, views and experiences too often went unheard before the pandemic at the heart of the city’s plans for recovery, we can build an Edinburgh that works for us all.”

Kayleigh O'Neill was elected as a new Scottish Greens Councillor for Forth Ward, Edinburgh, on May 6. (Photo credit: Scott Louden)