Icelandic Parliament Awaits Wheelchair-Friendly Podium

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Icelandic Parliament Awaits Wheelchair-Friendly Podium

By Alëx Elliott
Alþingi, Iceland's parliament

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

Staff at Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, had to work quickly on Wednesday to reinstall the old speaker’s podium after parliament was unexpectedly called together during its summer break.

Parliament was called together to discuss a proposed emergency law to ban Icelandair mechanics from starting an indefinite strike which would have paralyzed international transport links. In the face of mounting political and other pressure, the mechanics decided by themselves to return to the negotiating table and call off their strike, for now.

In the Icelandic parliament, MPs who wish to speak do so from the speaker’s podium at the front of the chamber; they do not simply speak from their own seats. The problem on Wednesday, however, was that the podium had been removed.

It is due to be replaced by a new one which is suitable for people with special physical needs, including wheelchair users, according to Alþingi office manager, Helgi Bernódusson.

“The podium had been taken away, but we reacted quickly and it is back in its place again,” Helgi told Vísir.is.

He says the new podium will be installed before the start of the autumn session, and will have more space around it for wheelchairs to maneuver, as well as it being possible to adjust its height so wheelchair users can comfortably address the chamber.

Helgi says that despite these changes Alþingi cannot fulfill all the demands made upon new buildings for disabled access, as the building is old and cramped, which sets limits on what it is possible to do.

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