Director of Communications
CHICAGO – As the 2019 race for Chicago’s Mayor gears up, Chicago-based Access Living and eleven community partners will host a candidates’ forum from 3-6 p.m. today at Access Living focused on disability.
Twelve candidates for mayor are slated to attend including: Dorothy Brown, Gery Chico, Amara Enyia, La Shawn Ford, Ja’Mal Green, Jerry Joyce, John Kozlar, Lori Lightfoot, Garry McCarthy, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, and Paul Vallas. Invitations to participate went to all candidates who are listed with the Board of Elections and filed petitions with names. Because of the large field of candidates and accessibility considerations the event will be divided into two panels.
“In recent years, the public and politicians have become more aware of the political power and commitment of people with disabilities,” says Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. “People with disabilities have been going to battle for issues that are important to all of us in Chicago like healthcare, affordable housing, transportation and education. Candidates who fail to look at these issues through a disability lens in 2019 will pay a price at the polls.”
All questions asked of the candidates were submitted by disabled voters and focus on the candidates’ plans for and experience with disability rights, laws and access enforcement; plans for the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; priorities to increase access to healthcare, transportation and education, and plans for creating a welcoming and accessible city.
“Campaigns typically do not specifically court disabled voters, as they do other blocs like racial groups or women,” said Amber Smock, director of advocacy for Access Living. “However, 292,332 people in Chicago, almost 11 percent of the city population, are living with some form of disability and they want to be heard.”
Issues like employment are top of mind for the disability community with roughly 35 percent of Chicagoans with a disability living below the poverty line, (compared to approximately 12 percent of people without a disability) along with the supports needed to live independently.
“We all know that elections matter,” said Andrés Gallegos, Access Living Board of Directors’ Chairman and moderator of the candidate forum. “It’s imperative that persons with disabilities participate in the election process and that we exercise our power to vote because that is ultimately the best way for our voices to be heard. We’d also like to see more people with disabilities run for office as well.”
Voting, access to polling places, understanding of issues and responding to candidates are at the core of Access Living’s public policy work. More than 150 people are expected to attend today’s forum to hear from the candidates. The event will also be live-streamed.