2018 Disability Candidates Forum for the Chicago Mayor’s Race

Candidates Written Responses


The candidate responses to 20 written questions were compiled and organized by question below. These questions were submitted by Chicago disability voters through an online survey hosted by Access Living in September 2018.

We thank all of the candidates and their staff who made sure to get these responses in on time, in order to communicate their priorities with disability voters. We hope this compilation will be useful for voters thinking about how different City-level policy issues could impact your daily lives.

This compilation is not an endorsement. Candidate responses to each of the questions are organized alphabetically. Most questions are yes/no only. Three questions specifically asked for open-ended answers, to which all candidates did respond. Some candidates provided additional information to some yes/no answers; we included those extra notes for transparency.


Active leadership by disabled people is necessary to ensure that any decisions made, are made with disabled voices being present to identify how those decisions may impact our community.

As Mayor, will you:

Appoint leaders with disabilities to key City leadership posts?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, I will. Customized employment as a model will start with a variety of positions, but I recognize the assets, the abilities, of people with disabilities, for positions across the spectrum, including key leadership posts.

Expand the function and leverage of the Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, a city powered by the people will include a Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities with free and even radical abilities to influence and shape the city in ways that are “with” and not just “for” Chicagoans with disabilities.


Living with a disability is very expensive and the lack of accessible housing in Chicago compounds the problem. This can force us to live in institutional settings versus our preference of independent living within our own neighborhood.

As Mayor will you:

Increase the percentage of accessible housing units required for development?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

Lori Lightfoot: Note: Yes. (My housing plan can be found here.)

Increase funding for grants to assist in the cost of home modification?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

Provide real estate property tax relief for homeowners with disability access modifications?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

Garry McCarthy: Note: My overall plan is to demand tax relief for every homeowner in Chicago. We cannot afford to drive people out of this city because of overburdening property taxes.


Access to doctor’s offices, facilities, hospitals, and appropriate emergency response is essential to providing medical care to people with disabilities. Inaccessible medical settings negatively affect patient safety, quality of care, and outcomes.

As Mayor, will you:

Expand access to city-run mental health clinics?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, expand access and their availability.

Lori Lightfoot: Note: I have proposed a graduated real estate transfer tax to generate proceeds to be used to create affordable housing, prevent homelessness and open and operate city-funded health clinics.

Garry McCarthy: Note: My plan is to restore mental health clinics/services to the communities where the current mayor ripped them out, leaving a vacuum of despair. We will move the clinics closer to the people who need them most.

Invest in mobile response teams for people with disabilities experiencing crisis or meltdown?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No: Yes/No: McCarthy

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, and ensure every police officer has such training.

Lori Lightfoot: Note: I will look to the best practice examples of other cities that use an integrated team approach that involve mental health professionals engaged in de-escalation techniques.

Garry McCarthy: Note: I need to explore this question, first and foremost, to find out who would be responsible for the training and deployment of these mobile response teams. I would very much like to see a public/private partnership in this investment.

Spearhead an initiative to ensure Chicago healthcare provider compliance of disability rights laws, including the U.S. Access Board’s medical accessibility standards?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Yes, ADA is strong but compliance, almost across the board, needs bolstering, and accountability.

Garry McCarthy: It goes without saying that there needs to be strict compliance of all applicable disability rights laws. These are rights that have been earned and they need to be honored.


Police often interact with people with all kinds of disabilities, and disabled people are overrepresented in jails and prisons.

What are your ideas for how the Chicago Police Department can build relationships with the disability & communities of color to decrease reliance on the criminal justice system?


Dorothy Brown: Many of the problems between the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the disability and communities of color have resulted from a lack of continuing commitment to community policing. In the 1990s, CPD started to implement “community policing,” a model that built strong, positive relations between the Department and the communities they serve. CPD’s community policing was seen as a model program for other large cities.

The U.S. Department of Justice has noted that CPD “has many officers who are already policing in a community-focused manner.”1 Unfortunately, funding for CAPS has decreased over the years while the budget of CPD has gone up. Most community policing funds are used to host community meetings, which usually are sparsely attended and “are not an effective way for CPD to learn about neighborhood problems or the concerns of the spectrum of residents who make up each neighborhood.”2

The time has come to revive the principles and practices of community policing. In The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, a landmark study by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (February 1967), the case for community policing was laid out succinctly. The Commission diagnosed the problem between the community and police departments as follows:

“Citizen hostility toward the police is every bit as disruptive of peace and order, of course, as police indifference to or mistreatment of citizens. It is so obvious as almost to be a truism that residents will not obtain the police protection they badly want and need until policemen feel that their presence is welcome and that their problems are understood. However, in the effort to achieve this state of affairs, the duty of taking the initiative clearly devolves on the police, both because they are organized and disciplined and because they are public servants sworn to protect every part of the community. It is an urgent duty. Social tensions are growing and crime rates are mounting. Police agencies cannot preserve the public peace and control crime unless the public participates more fully than it now does in law enforcement. Bad community feeling does more than create tensions and engender actions against the police that in turn may embitter policemen and trigger irrational responses from them. It stimulates crime.”3

The President’s Commission noted that all police operations and administration should be guided by the principles of community relations.

“Community relations are not exclusively a matter of special programs, but a matter that touches on all aspects of police work. They must play a part in the selection, training, deployment, and promotion of personnel, in the execution of field procedures, in staff policymaking and planning, in the enforcement of departmental discipline, and in the handling of citizen’s complaints.”4

Lastly, the President’s Commission emphasized the role of changing attitudes among police officers as a necessary step to improving community relations,

“Improving community relations involves not only instituting programs and changing procedures and practices, but re-examining fundamental attitudes. The police will have to learn to listen patiently and understandingly to people who are openly critical of them or hostile to them, since those people are precisely the ones with whom relations need to be improved.”5

These principles are as valid today as they were in 1967. As Mayor, I will work with CPD to reengage officers and residents with the principles and practices of community policing.

Gery Chico: The police need to be better trained so that when they interact with a person with a disability they:

a) Recognize and are aware of the disability and how it may affect the interaction with an officer
b) Have tools from de-escalation training and Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to use to diffuse situations that can otherwise become hostile.

The Chicago consent decree, which I support, calls for both increased de-escalation training and CIT, and as Mayor, I will make sure to get it done because police misreading a situation at the point of arrest leads to people with disabilities being arrested far too often.

We should also hire a dedicated disabilities manager to ensure that the policies of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Cook County Jail do not conflict with the ADA.

Amara Enyia: A viable solution lies in creating a bridge between CPD and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CPH). An emergency protocol could be established that diverts disabled citizens from criminal justice consequences to public health assistance when appropriate. The bureaucratic missteps and subsequent tragedies of Laquan McDonald and Quintonio LeGrier highlight the need for and lack of coordination between law enforcement and health professionals.

La Shawn K. Ford: The rates of people with disability and particularly its intersections with poverty and ethnicity is as high or higher in my area of Austin as anywhere in the city. People with disabilities, people who are poor, who are of color, have some of the greatest struggles with the police and criminal justice system, and every stage of that system. This has been a priority of mine from when I first entered office.

Ja’Mal Green: As mayor, I would require police officers to have extensive training on mental illness & disability awareness. The root of the problem is education and we must educate officers on how to deal with those who have a disability. I would also push for police vehicles to alert officers of a disabled driver once pulled over.

Jerry Joyce: As Mayor, I would be committed to proper and robust training for incoming officers and current members of the force to ensure better outcomes. Officers require education to understand the special needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as those experiencing mental illness. Likewise, it is evident we must do more to build trust with communities of color. For both communities, education, outreach and seats at the table are absolutely vital.

John Kozlar: 60/40 Plan - There is a major tension between our communities and our police department. This tension only benefits criminals. To build the trust between our communities and police, this policy will be enacted: In order to police in a given district, 60% of the police have to live in the District. By living in the district, police will be seen not as outsiders, but instead as community members who know the residents, who will be raising a family within the district (thereby wanting their neighborhood to be a safe environment for all), and who will be investing in the district. No other candidate has this idea. Further, we need to let the Police do their job - the police have been through extensive training, and are well prepared to do a good job to protect our city. We must have their back, and hold accountable those who do not professionally represent our men and women serving in our law enforcement. Ongoing training and community involvement will be essential as well.

Lori Lightfoot: I am the only candidate in this race with experience on the critical issue of police reform and accountability and with the breadth of experience to bring peace to our neighborhoods. I am prepared to hit the ground running on meaningful, community-driven reforms.

My 16-page public safety plan sets forth in detail a number of reforms and policies I would implement at CPD, including CIT training for officers and having mental health professionals act as co-responders with police. While CIT training is heavily focused on mental health issues, I will work to broaden the training to include interactions with people with visible and invisible disabilities, and will involve the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in training CPD, as well as other professionals.

My public safety plan also goes into great detail about ways to rebuild community relations between CPD and the communities they serve, including: (1) creating a new chief diversity officer for CPD; (2) designing a real community policing strategy that rebuilds what was lost when the disinvestment in CAPS began; (3) peace and reconciliation efforts; (4) community involvement in officer training; and (5) increasing officers' core competencies about neighborhoods they serve.

In addition, I have proposed reforming police practices, including: (1) civilian oversight of CPD; (2) restoring beat integrity; (3) training police on interacting with youth; (4) eliminate a culture of lying by commission or omission; and (5) expanding efforts to diversify CPD, among other things.

My detailed public safety plan is available here.

Garry McCarthy: **I believe that strategic deployment of officers to the same districts, serving the same neighborhoods is a major step toward removing barriers to good, conscientious service to a community. When police officers and the people they serve are familiar with each other, understanding and cooperation are fostered. I will insure that CPD exceeds state standards for CIT training, so that we will avoid deadly events like the one that led to the deaths of Quintonio LeGreier and Bettie Jones.

Susana Mendoza: As mayor, I will work hand-in-hand with the Chicago Police Department to ensure our officers have the proper training to manage relationships with all communities across our city. Police officers need to be better trained at identifying signs of disabilities, both physical and mental, in order to pursue de-escalation rather than engagement techniques, and connect people with social or medical services, rather than incarceration whenever possible. Furthermore, there has been a lack of investment in communities of color which has led to lack of opportunity in education and jobs. It’s important to recognize that the police are dealing with the symptoms of crime. Tackling the underlying reasons for crime and getting to the root of the problem requires an intentional investment in human capital. I believe by enforcing the consent decree, hiring more detectives to increase clearance rates, and investing in social service and mental health programs - by investing in people- we can increase trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve while giving struggling individuals the tools they need to thrive.

Toni Preckwinkle: Our police officers should have an intersectional lens which acknowledges that communities of color often belong to other disenfranchised groups, such as those living with disabilities—whether intellectual, or physical mental. People living with disabilities are at a greater risk of contact with law enforcement and justice system involvement, often because people with disabilities have difficulties complying with commands. This is exemplified by far too many instances of people living in Chicago’s South and West Side who have been harmed during police interactions. According to a national study, twenty-five percent of people shot and killed by police were identified by police or family members as living with mental health conditions.

It’s important that the consent decree proposed for Chicago mandates substantial expenditure for training. One challenge will be seeing that this money is well invested in our officers and enables them to assess and respond both in crisis situations and in more every day encounters. Training must be sufficiently varied and inclusive to reflect new research about emerging adults, the needs of people in transition and other vulnerable groups. It is also important not to neglect the needs of front line staff, including police officers, who may face difficult circumstances at home themselves as well as undergoing the stress of confronting trauma and violence in struggling communities.

Our goal should also be to successfully link residents with disabilities and/or communities of color with services and moving them away from the criminal justice system. That requires understanding specific needs based on gender, age, disability, and behavioral health status.

The expansion of behavioral health care due to CountyCare, our expansion of Medicaid, has opened up new opportunities for deflection and diversion. Our expanded clinics and innovative triage centers can serve more people than currently arriving at their doors.

To address these issues and restore relational trust, I will work toward front-end solutions, such as ensuring that treatment models focus on early intervention, including treatment for people with serious mental health conditions. I would also work to expand training for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications call takers and dispatchers to better identify disability-related crisis. We need to acknowledge that not every incident requires or is aided by an armed officer and diversify our front-line staff that is able to respond. Further, I would advocate to strengthen the Chicago Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team training to ensure that officers better understand cognitive, auditory, and visual disabilities. The police are vital to this work but so are private providers and advocacy groups, especially those based in community that can support diversion and deflection in ways that are culturally appropriate and inclusive and responsive to community concerns.

Paul Vallas: As mayor, I will empower CPD officers to appropriately and effectively work with people with physical and mental disabilities in every facet of their service. Beyond general assistance and compassion for people with disabilities, I will ensure CPD officers receive repetitive, redundant de-escalation training specifically intended to educate and train officers on interactions with individuals with mental disabilities or who are determined to be experiencing a mental health crisis. This de-escalation and in-field triage training will significantly reduce the escalation and impact of negative police-citizen interactions.

Additionally, this training will including training officers on how to interact with people who potentially have physical disabilities that may prevent ostensible compliance with verbal commands, such as an individual unable to put their arms above their head when ordered.

Taken in conjunction with my plan to restore and maintain Beat Integrity (enough officers dedicated to each community), which is critical to restoring effective community policing, my vision is that police will be able to quickly, compassionately, and effectively identify and properly interact with people with physical and mental disabilities.

Overall, these strategies will reduce the number of people with disabilities mistakenly arrested or put into escalating situations with members of law enforcement and ensure that officers continue to serve every member of the community.


CPS is in crisis regarding the education of its more than 50,000 students with disabilities. This year, ISBE put a special monitor in place to oversee compliance with special education rights for students with disabilities.

As Mayor, will you:

Make special education compliance a strategic priority for CPS leadership?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, I am grateful of the successful legal battles in this area, and despite the law compliance continues to fall short. I think we can do better. We can well surpass what has been required of us. It will require funding, but a lot of education and changes of norm, and any great city will put that at the forefront of our priorities.

Lori Lightfoot: Note: This issue will be addressed in my forthcoming education policy.

Re-commit to a robust ADA accessibility implementation plan, with dedicated funding? CPS used to have a proactive ADA accessibility implementation plan. As of 2018, almost 40% of CPS schools are still completely inaccessible for students with disabilities.

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, the statistic is unacceptable.

Paul Vallas: Note: As CEO of Chicago Public Schools, I made ADA a capital priority in our comprehensive school construction repair plan. Beside building 78 new buildings in full ADA compliance, we did major renovations in 350 buildings, many of these renovations included making them ADA accessible.

Address lack of equity for students with disabilities, stemming from investment in schools in wealthier neighborhoods as well as a reliance on school choice based on standardized test results? Most students with disabilities are in under resourced areas, and many do not take standardized tests.

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, standardized tests are a problem that I have long realized are devastating to kids across the spectrum of diversities. I plan for us to be a city that takes the lead in re-evaluating the impact of these tests that stick our students on an irrational unitary spectrum.

Based on this situation, what would you do to provide equity to students with disabilities?


Dorothy Brown: In Chicago Public Schools, 14.1% of students have special learning needs and are known as “diverse learners.”6 The Schools have prepared individualized education plans (IEP) for each of these students. However, in a recent report by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the quality of special education services at CPS was found to be highly inadequate and in violation of federal law.7 ISBE found that CPS had denied, delayed or limited required services to diverse learners. They found problems in four areas of administration:

  • Inconsistent functioning of the electronic individualized education plan (IEP)
  • Non-transparent documentation and data collection requirements
  • Inadequate budgeting system, and
  • Lack of public awareness of transportation policies

ISBE determined that the electronic system “keeps educators from properly documenting decisions, while limiting staffers’ ability to place students in therapeutic schools or summer programs. The panel said the public has had difficulty accessing an arcane procedural manual that is not always consistent with the electronic system, sowing confusion among parents and educators. District edicts to collect and approve data on special education students added a significant workload to staff, while CPS “did not take any meaningful steps” to inform parents of the new requirements for obtaining classroom aides or transportation services.”8

As of September 2018, there were more than 700 unfilled positions for special education teachers, classroom assistants and clinicians in Chicago Public Schools.9 Also, as of November 2018, many of the changes mandated by ISBE have yet to be implemented.

These delays are unacceptable. As Mayor, I will create a permanent oversight committee to ensure that special education services are properly administered in Chicago Public Schools and funding is available to fill open positions.

Gery Chico: I will ensure that the school board includes at least one disabilities expert as long as any school board members are appointed by the mayor.

Additionally, state oversight of special needs education should become longer term. We have failed the city’s special needs students, many of them from low income and minority families, and long-term measures are necessary to restore public trust.

Finally, I will ensure that every special needs students receives adequate transportation to CPS. Every special needs child has the right to transportation to receive the services they need.

Amara Enyia: Our administration will fulfill and enhance CPS’ commitment to the special monitor mandate by hiring investigative and administrative staff that provide a permanent support and advocacy apparatus for CPS’ disability population. Our administration will also employ an equity lens in determining which schools and communities need more and less resources earmarked for disabled students.

Our administration will strongly encourage state government leadership to demand that ISBE follow through on its commitment to hire appropriate personnel and to infuse protocols that no longer delay or deny service for students with disabilities up to and including: speech and occupational therapy, busing, and classroom aides.

Furthermore, our administration will host an annual summit for parents of disabled students to better understand CPS’ menu of services and the rights of their children. In addition, training for CPS staff related to CPS’ special education manual and related legislation will be mandatory.

La Shawn K. Ford: While it is a problem that requires that goes across all students, and should be up to community advocates tied to disabilities, this feels like an area that should involve exemptions from the standardized tests.

Ja’Mal Green: We must make sure that every public school is fully accessible and meets ADA guidelines. That means we must allocate funds to go toward construction at the 40% of schools that are inaccessible. We must also make sure we are not denying services to cps students throughout the city. We must make sweeping reforms to ensure that every student has the proper style of education to fit their needs. That means we must focus on the schools that have not been getting those services for some time to bring them up to standard and have equity.

Jerry Joyce: Principals in schools should be allowed to grant waivers from standardized testing requirements on a case-by-case basis and the ADA compliance office must be allowed to grant waivers as well, based on appeals from parents who also should be well-informed of the educational options available.

John Kozlar: Every student does not learn the same and each student has different gifts/skill sets. It is important that we nurture all of our students at a young age, so that they can be prepared to enter adulthood. If a student has a disability, we must do everything that we can do assure that they are treated fairly. We must enact programs to protect our students, which include students with disabilities. A specific Program that I will enact is called the Little Professionals League. Think of this as Little Little Sports, however, it is directed more towards preparing our children for career paths. So, we will have different Little Professional Leagues, where students can shadow doctors, lawyers, carpenters, teachers, etc, so they can have an idea of which career(s) they would like to pursue, before they enter college.

Lori Lightfoot: I will make sure that CPS follows parameters of the recent consent decree with the State of Illinois to ensure that disabled students are provided the same educational opportunities as able-bodied students. I will also make sure that the students, their families and teachers are treated with dignity and respect.

Garry McCarthy: As Mayor, I will demand that our City of Chicago lawmakers in Springfield, our City Council and our Board of Education work together to clear any barriers, financial and otherwise, that marginalizes students with disabilities.

Susana Mendoza: First and Foremost, CPS needs to fulfill its legal obligation to meet the needs of its students with disabilities. In my administration, financial challenges will not be solved by cutting special ed staff and letting students with disabilities languish or fall behind on their tests. For the last two years I’ve been taking on Bruce Rauner, advocating for education funding reform and standing up to his attacks on Chicago Public Schools and our teachers. When Bruce Rauner tried to create a crisis and hold education funding reform hostage, as comptroller I prioritized school funding payments and made sure that our schools opened on time. Specifically, during the budget crisis, I prioritized payments for transportation and other special education needs by making more than a year’s worth of Categorical Payments within my first 10 months in office. Additionally, I teamed up with State Senator Andy Manar to travel across the state, making the case for school funding reform. Our advocacy paid off. SB1 passed, giving Chicago schools more equitable school funding. I’m a proud CPS parent and will be one for the next 13 years. I know we need to fully fund our schools in an equitable way that also address the unique needs of students with disabilities, and as Mayor I will fight to make it happen.

Toni Preckwinkle: Chicago Public Schools have too few nurses, social workers, and special education teachers to serve students with physical and mental health needs. This one of the reasons why I support changes in the TIF program to dedicate yearly surplus to public schools. It’s not just enough to fund positions - we have to ensure consistency of care as too many nurses must oversee multiple schools and therefore students must rely on different professionals with different training, experience and familiarity. We must also re-evaluate the district’s decision to outsource care for those significant medical needs, which has led to detrimental lapses and absences in care.

It’s also why I support an elected representative school board to ensures that communities have an opportunity to elect a representative that can adequately represent their needs.

Paul Vallas: As mayor, I will drastically improve equity of delivery of education to all students, including students with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities. My entire career has been a demonstration in the equitable allocation of resources, especially for people with disabilities. From my work with Larry Gorski and in my twenty-year association with Sue Gamm, who I appointed Director of Specialized Education Services in the Chicago Public Schools and has served as my senior consultant in every school district I have been responsible for. I have a proven record on protecting and supporting people with disabilities. It is important to know that when I was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, we made ADA compliance in all school buildings a top priority. A significant amount of the capital plan was committed to ADA compliance. I will assemble an advisory group led by Sue Gamm and comprised by individuals that I have worked with over the years that will focus on special education services on special education and ADA issues to advise me and to guide me on City priorities on allocating resources and I’m ensuring that there’s full accountability for the services that we provide and the full accessibility to our facilities and our programs that we’re determined to achieve. Specifically, I will ensure the proper funding and oversight for a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS), formerly categorized as Response to Intervention (RTI), to appropriately and specifically work with students with social, emotional and learning disabilities. The MTSS program will have proper oversight to ensure equitable and effective administration of the program and that students with disabilities gain the services and education entitled to them. As part of my initiative to rehabilitate existing and develop new school environments, I will ensure full ADA compliance for all physical structures. Beyond ADA compliance, I will continue to invest in and leverage 21st Century Learning Skills and Technologies that are accessible to as many students as possible. I will also, as mentioned, ensure that the school system is in full compliance with federal and state laws governing the rights of students with disabilities.


Across the country, local governments are debating whether to ban plastic straws as a way to reduce impact on the environment.

As Mayor, would you:
Work with disability advocates to ensure that city environmental efforts do not result in reducing access to needed supports for people with disabilities?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, affordable housing for all people is an absolute necessity.

Commit to opposing a total ban on plastic straws, and instead work towards ensuring that those who need plastic straws can access them at locations/events that involve eating and drinking?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No: Neither yes or no: Kozlar

Gery Chico: Note: I support Chicago’s effort to go green, and a part of that is reducing our use of plastics. At the same time, plastic straws are the only way that some people with disabilities can drink a beverage, which is why it is essential that any ban include an exception that a food provider supply a plastic straw whenever a customer asks for one, regardless of if a disability is “visible” to the proprietor.

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, there are unintentional consequences of the very best policies, but we need to never ignore those dangers, and need to focus on inclusion. Widespread accomodations like this are an absolute necessity.

John Kozlar: Note: I do not feel plastic straws are our biggest concern in Chicago, but do feel we need to limit the amount of plastic within our environment.

Garry McCarthy: Note: Yes, but I also will encourage any research that hastens to replace plastics, including plastic straws, with an environmentally suitable and practical alternative.


Many immigrants have disabilities or support persons with disabilities. Immigration is becoming an increasingly visible disability topic in Chicago.

If elected Mayor how are you planning to ensure that immigrants with disabilities are supported and safe in the event that they are detained?


Dorothy Brown: The City’s Office of New Americans reports directly the Office of the Mayor and houses and provides comprehensive information about immigration topics and Chicago’s Sanctuary City Policy.10 The website includes a section on Frequently Asked questions (FAQs) on Sanctuary City policies, contacting 311 for non-emergency services offered by Chicago and community resources for documented and undocumented immigrants, and reporting hate crimes and discrimination.11 As Mayor, I will maintain the direct reporting relationship between the Mayor’s Office and the Office of New Americans and ensure that all community resources are disclosed.

Also, I fully support the Chicago Welcoming City Ordinance, which includes the following provisions:

  • Bans municipal agencies from providing City of Chicago benefits, opportunities, or services based on citizenship or immigration status
  • Recognizes foreign driver’s license, passport, or matricula consular (consulate-issued document) as valid means of identification for all non-federal programs and services
  • Bans City agencies from requesting information about or otherwise investigate or assist in the investigation of the citizenship or immigration status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by Illinois State Statute, federal regulation, or court decision.
  • Except as provided under applicable federal and state law, no agent or agency shall disclose information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any person.

Gery Chico: My grandparents immigrated to Chicago from Mexico, and I would not be where I am today if this city had not welcomed them and provided them with opportunities. As their grandchild, I will ensure that Chicago remains a sanctuary city and does not cooperate in ICE efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants solely based on their status. Some undocumented immigrants have disabilities and some live in nursing homes and face the risk of medical deportations. No one’s medical care should be interrupted if they are detained. That is absolutely unconscionable, and as Mayor I will use the full force of the law to protect all of Chicago’s residents and keep Chicago a Welcoming City.

Amara Enyia: We must ensure that the Chicago New Americans Plan includes initiatives that specifically support immigrants with disabilities. Increasing access to public information on ADA accessibility, in coordination with the State of Illinois’ Attorney General is vital. Our administration will provide municipal level assistance for immigrants seeking citizenship to have requirements waived under “medical certifications for disability exceptions” per ICE. Putting administrative and legal protections in place to ensure undocumented students with disabilities have access to healthcare without fear of detainment is a priority. Our administration, in coordination with Cook County and the State of Illinois, would require all city hospitals to: declare themselves “sanctuary hospitals”; conduct patient awareness campaigns; and formally commit to not sharing vital information with ICE.

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: I have been a strong supporter of sanctuary schools, organizations, and a sanctuary city and state as a whole. I will ensure protection.

Ja’Mal Green: If immigrants are detained, we will fight to make sure they are treated fair and have the resources needed. That means having sign language interpreters, access to medicine and treatment, translation for the blind etc. We will also work with organizations that dispatches legal help to ensure their rights are not being violated.

Jerry Joyce: Immigration officials must be properly trained to deal with individuals with disabilities. They must also ensure that any detention facility is required to maintain the same safety standard as other institutions such as the Bureau of Prisons and that these facilities are subject to regular inspection.

John Kozlar: I will advocate that all human beings be treated fairly and that all are treated with dignity. We will do everything in our power to keep good families here, and fight for human rights.

Lori Lightfoot: It is imperative that immigrants with disabilities receive all necessary medical care while they are detained. Moreover, it is equally imperative that employees and individuals who interact with immigrants with disabilities in detention are properly trained to recognize and demonstrate appropriate empathy in delivering services to people with visible and/or invisible disabilities. Again, I will involve the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in this training, as well as other providers from the disability community.

Garry McCarthy: I will make sure that our police officers are not involved in detaining immigrants nor actively assisting ICE in such detentions, unless that person has committed a serious crime. However, I do want our offices to observe and document any ill treatment of any immigrant with disabilities.

Susana Mendoza: I’m a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. I know immigrant families make our city strong, and I know how vital it is that we stand up for the rights of every immigrant. As mayor, I will strive to make Chicago a welcoming city for everyone and stand up to the hateful attacks on immigrant rights from our bigoted president. That means working to fully fund and support social service providers representing immigrant families; establishing protocols with foreign consulates for communicating with detainees; working with our state government to enforce the Illinois TRUST Act; and being a strong advocate who makes it clear hate has no place in this city. You need look no further than the Illinois Comptroller’s office or the City Clerk’s office to see that I hire a diverse workforce that reflects Chicago and that includes bilingual people to better serve Chicago’s immigrants.

Toni Preckwinkle: The Trump Administration’s continues its efforts to target and criminalize immigrants and this is even more dangerous for those with disabilities. I will work to strengthen protections for immigrants with disabilities, including protecting them while receiving medical treatment and interacting with law enforcement.

As a candidate for Mayor, I have called for the end to the carve outs in the Welcoming City ordinance that empowers Chicago police to work hand in hand with ICE. I’m working with the lead sponsor of the City’s Welcoming City ordinance and the broader community coalition to make this a reality.

I’ve also committed to end the widespread use of an inaccurate, racially discriminatory Gang Database, which allows CPD’s unlimited discretion to criminalize over 128,000 largely Black and Latinx individuals, without consistent guidelines or approval requirements. In addition to using this information to harass and falsely detain people, CPD provides this incorrect, inconsistent Database to third parties, including U.S. Immigrations and Customs (ICE). As a result, the false gang designations can affect an individual’s ability to get employment, licenses, bond, parole, housing, immigration relief, and more. We must also ensure that the Chicago Police Department complies with the Illinois Trust Act to ensure that we protect undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation when they reach out to law enforcement for safety. These are important steps to making sure Chicago is a true sanctuary city – and working to establish trust between police and the communities they are sworn to serve.

Studies have shown that people with disabilities often experience higher rates of violent crime, sexual assault, and domestic violence than people without disabilities, and must be protected with they seek protection. Officers must continually be made aware of the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the department's roles and responsibilities with regards to the Americans with Disabilities Act in correctional settings. CPD personnel and facilities must be ready to safely meet the needs of immigrants with disabilities by having culturally and linguistically competent officers and health professionals to effectively communicate with and understand the needs of the detainee. When in the community, officers must ensure that they know how safely move and transport people with disabilities; once detained the department must understand the person's specific needs and clearly communicate how they will meet the detainee's activities of daily living requirements, such as feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring the individual in a safe and dignified manner.

Paul Vallas: There is no double standard for me. When I headed CPS, it did not matter if the students were immigrants or even if they were undocumented. Chicago is a sanctuary city and we will treat all people equally and provide services to people with disabilities equally. As mayor, I will not treat immigrants—documented or undocumented—any differently than I would treat city residents. There will be no discrimination, everybody will have access to services and supports.


The City of Chicago has many opportunities to improve its infrastructure and services that will empower more independent living for people with disabilities.

As Mayor, would you:
Consider establishing a citywide task force to comprehensively identify opportunities and strategies not only intra-agency but also inter-agency as well as business communities and organizations that serve our community?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, and there are good examples of such past intra-agency collaboration that we could build off of.

As Mayor, will you:
Amend the current ordinance to include residential high-rise buildings built before 1975 as a type of building requiring automatic sprinkler systems and further protect the safety of people with disabilities in emergencies?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Vallas No: Preckwinkle

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, and Chicago, while somewhat stable environmentally, is not fully protected from all sorts of human and natural disasters. People with disabilities, including seniors, must always be the core of such prevention oriented plans.

Toni Preckwinkle: Note: Existing residential buildings are now exempt from the sprinkler requirement. However, every one of these buildings (over 8 stories) was required to submit a life safety evaluation. Improved fire alarm systems, elevator recall systems, radio communications systems for fire departments, fire walls in staircases and corridors, and other measures were required in lieu of sprinklers. If major rehab work is being done, then sprinklers must be installed (which is what we are doing now at Housing Authority of Cook County).

As Mayor, will you:
Would you commit to updating the city's website using Universal Design principles?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, it is a shame it is not now.

John Kozlar: Note: Yes, I will make sure our city’s website is easily accessible and easy to navigate.


Transportation options are a critical concern for thousands of people with disabilities in Chicago.

As Mayor, will you: Ensure that the “disability seat” on the CTA governing board is filled by a person with a disability in 2020, when the current seat holder’s term expires?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No: Neither yes or no: Kozlar (did not circle either but provided the below response)

La Shawn K. Ford: Yes, in every way consistent with my capacity that will be an absolute priority.

John Kozlar: Note: I will definitely consider this and advocate that the seat is filled with someone who can best relate to the needs of the specific community.

Paul Vallas: Note: I will endeavor to have more people with more disabilities serving on more boards. I would be inclined to support the selection of at least one person with a disability selected by the disability community on the school board, and other important boards that involve oversight of City institutions that serve the general public.

Consider convening a transportation task force of consumers to address the lack of accessible cabs, lack of accessible street parking, and lack of accountability for access in emerging transit technologies?

Yes: Brown, Chico, Enyia, Ford, Green, Joyce, Kozlar, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Mendoza, Preckwinkle, Vallas No:

La Shawn K. Ford: Note: Yes, accessibility and inclusion everywhere.


1 Investigation of the Chicago Police Department, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, January 13, 2017m p. 138.

2 Ibid., p. 140

3 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, op. cit., p. 100.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Chicago Public Schools, CPS Stats and Facts, https://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/At-aglance/Pages/Stats_and_facts.aspx. Accessed 11/20/18

7 Illinois State Board of Education, Memorandum of April 18, 2018, https://www.isbe.net/Documents/Public_Inquiry_Final_Report.pdf. Accessed 11/19/18

8 Perez, Juan Jr., State panel: Overhaul worsened Chicago Public Schools' special education program, Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2018. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-special-educationinvestigation-findings-20180412-story.html. Accessed 11/19/18

9 Perez, Juan Jr., In 'urgent appeal,' advocates call for Gov.-elect Pritzker to bolster CPS special education fixes, Chicago Tribune, November 12, 2018, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicagospecial-education-pritzker-appeal-20181112-story.html. Accessed 11/19/18.

10 Office of the Mayor, Office of New Americans https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/provdrs/office_of_new_americans.html, Accessed 9/3/18

11 Office of the Mayor, Sanctuary City Supportive Services, https://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/mayor/Office%20of%20New%20Americans/PDFs/SanctuaryCitiesFAQs.pdf. Accessed 9/3/18