Director of Communications
Chicago – Chicago-based Access Living hosted the four candidates for State’s Attorney and the three for Clerk Thursday afternoon at a nonpartisan forum where they answered questions submitted by voters on issues affecting people with disabilities. All candidates for both races were invited to attend.
All four candidates for State’s Attorney attended: Incumbent State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Bill Conway, former Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti and Donna More. The three candidates for Clerk of the Circuit Court were also in attendance: Former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi and attorney Jacob Meister.
“The State’s Attorney is the chief litigator of Cook County and who should be supporting plans and policy issues that are critical for disabled residents. The Clerk’s office handles records and procedures impacting every citizen. We want to hear where these candidates are willing to take a stand on issues specific to people with disabilities,” said Karen Tamley, President and CEO of Access Living.
The event featured questions submitted by voters, including the candidates’ approach to weighing a person’s disability when filing criminal charges, plans to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, involuntary commitment of people with disabilities, increasing accessibility of office services and candidates’ disabled competency.
In Illinois, there are 1.4 million people with a disability (11.1 percent of total 12.7 m population). In Chicago and Cook County, percentages are similar with 292,332 residents and 551,169 residents, respectively.
“People with disabilities in black and brown communities continue to experience major disparities in the criminal justice system. Forums like this give candidates a chance to seriously consider issues of disability they may not otherwise pay attention and hear from voters willing to hold their feet to the fire,” said John Schmidt, Access Living Board of Directors’ Chairman and moderator of the candidate forum.
Nationally, there are about 35 million eligible voters with a disability, surpassing the number of eligible Black and Latino voters. If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities, there would be about 2.2 million more voters.
The candidate forums are part of a national Get Out The Vote campaign among people with disabilities coordinated by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). The REV UP: Register, Educate, Vote, Use your Power Campaign aims to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues.
Voting, access to polling places, understanding of issues and responding to candidates are at the core of Access Living’s public policy work. Full political participation for Americans with disabilities is a top priority of advocates. AAPD works with state and national coalitions on effective, non-partisan campaigns to eliminate barriers to voting, promote accessibility of voting technology and polling places; educate voters about issues and candidates; promote turnout of voters with disabilities across the country; engage candidates and the media on disability issues, and protect eligible voters’ right to participate in elections.
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Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully–engaged and self–directed lives. Nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, Access Living challenges stereotypes, protects civil rights and champions social reform.