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Seven presidential candidates will address issues facing people with disabilities at a forum in Cedar Rapids on Saturday


Accessibility, Inclusion, and Outreach Conference

Ramada Hotel and Conference Center 523 33rd Ave. SW — Saturday, Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Graphic courtesy of Accessibility for All’s Facebook page

Disability rights activists have been working hard to make sure the 2020 presidential candidates address issues of importance to Americans with disabilities, and on Saturday, seven of the Democrats in the race will participate in a forum at 2019 Accessibility, Inclusion, and Outreach Conference in Cedar Rapids.

Out of the seven candidates, only Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Bernie Sanders address disability rights on their official campaign sites. But as of last month, none of the candidates had made their website or social media fully accessible to people with disabilities, according RespectAbility Report, a nonpartisan political site with a focus on disability rights.

Joining Booker and Sanders at the forum will be Mayor Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang. Joe Biden’s campaign is sending Chris Dodd, a retired U.S. Senator from Connecticut, to represent its candidate.

The conference, which is hosted by Accessibility for All and the Linn County Medical Society, will feature former Sen. Tom Harkin as the keynote speaker. Harkin, who represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate from 1985 to 2015, is a well-known champion of the rights of people with disabilities and was one of the main authors of the American with Disabilities Act.

One in four adults in Iowa have a disability, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not only can it be difficult for people with disabilities to get politicians to address the issues they face, it can also be difficult for people with disabilities to vote.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 60 percent of the polling places they examined around the country during the 2016 election had one or more potential impediments for voters with disabilities.

Iowa has already taken steps to assist people with disabilities vote. Each precinct is supposed to have two officials — a Democrat and a Republican — designated to assist voters with special needs. If a voter prefers to have someone other than the designated officials assist, that person will have to sign an Affidavit of Voter Requesting Assistance, according to the Iowa Secretary of State.

Curbside voting is also available for those unable to easily exit their vehicles. Once alerted to a voter requesting the curbside option, the two appointed precinct officials will bring a ballot to the voter.

The seven-hour Accessibility, Inclusion, and Outreach Conference starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, 523 33rd Ave. SW. Tickets can be purchased online and are $25, with lunch included, or $10 without lunch.


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