Mayoral election to impact city's disabled community

February 6, 2011 6:50:08 AM PST
The mayoral election is just a few weeks away. While candidates are reaching out to different groups about their issues, voters with disabilities are also concerned about their future.

People with disabilities make up about 20 percent of Chicago's population. Many hope the next mayor goes beyond what Mayor Daley accomplished.

"I think Mayor Daley did a great job because he came up with several programs, and so we hope that the next mayor that comes in doesn't cut out the programs of people with disabilities," said William Owens Jr.

"I think the best thing that the mayor has done in the past 23 years is provide leadership for people with disabilities in the form of saying that access is a priority," said Amber Smock.

"I think the biggest accomplishment is probably the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities because it's like a central location where you can get plenty of information on different services available," said Candace Coleman.

"When he first came into office was just at the time when the ADA was passed, and even then he recognized the importance of it," said Gary Arnold.

Owens, Smock, Coleman and Arnold are Chicago residents with disabilities who will be voting in the upcoming mayoral election. Most of them work or volunteer at Chicago's Access Living.

Although Mayor Daley accomplished a lot, they know there's more to be done.

"The next mayor is also going to have to take leadership enforcing disability access in the private sector," said Smock. "That means people can build homes, people who have grocery stores, people who do anything that supports the infrastructure of community living in the City of Chicago."

In an interview with Mayor Daley last summer, he said more has to be done in the area of employment.

Advocate for people with mental illness and organizer of Next Step Fred Friedman says the city's mental health services have decreased. He hopes this will improve with the next mayor.

"This is a desperate time," Friedman said. "The state is cutting back private agencies They're cutting back, not taking new people.

" "Chicago's comes a long way in term of accessibility," said Arnold, "but we need to look throughout Chicago and make sure that the disability voice is heard everywhere, in the school system, with mental health services, with the housing department, throughout Chicago. We just need to make sure that people with disabilities are represented."

The mayoral election is Tuesday, February 22. Early voting is taking place now until February 17.

For more information go to

Access Living is one of the location for early voting.