July 13, 2021
July 13, 2021

Disability Power Series Featuring Senator Tammy Duckworth

Disability Lead held a fireside chat featuring U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth. The first woman with a disability elected to Congress, Senator Duckworth reflected on her journey and how the Americans with Disabilities Act paved the way for her to become the highest-ranking elected official with a visible disability. She discussed her storied career, as well as key legislative priorities that protect the rights and livelihoods of Illinoisans with disabilities.

This event was presented in partnership with The Disabilities Fund at The Chicago Community Trust and Chicago Public Library's Diversability Advocacy, Women’s History Month, and Asian American Pacific Islander Committee.

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who was among the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms.

Senator Duckworth serves on several influential committees that give her an important platform to advocate for Illinois’s working families and entrepreneurs: the Armed Services Committee; the Environment & Public Works Committee; the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee.

Thank you to our Disability Power Series sponsors:

  • The Disabilities Fund at The Chicago Community Trust
  • Chicago Public Library's Diversability Advocacy, Women’s History Month, and Asian American Pacific Islander Committee


Disability Lead logo.



[the transcript for this video was provided by the Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) captioner of this live event]

EMILY BLUM: Welcome and thank you for joining us for our Disability Power Series featuring the honorable Senator Tammy Duckworth, this is Emily Blum speaking. I'm the Executive Director of Disability Lead my pronouns are she her an image description of me is that I am a white woman with brown wavy hair I'm wearing tortoiseshell glasses and a black top and a bright pink necklace and my virtual background appears a Disability Lead logo which is a one lined typeface made up of text that reads Disability Lead and the t in disability is a plus sign made up with our three distinct colors orange fuchsia and purple all coming together the plus sign symbolizes the positive impact that people with disabilities have in leadership roles and the importance of intersectional perspectives coming together as one. Also included in the virtual background is a pattern of disruption which symbolizes our amazing network of positive disruptors all people with disabilities who are using our power to create an equitable and inclusive society to learn more about our work who we are what we believe what we do please visit disabilitylead.org.

We are so excited to share our work and our stories with you we sent out a guide on accessing key accessibility features in zoom and we have cart, ASL interpreters and spanish translation available today. If you have any challenges accessing these features please connect with us via the chat box my colleagues will be monitoring and responding.

Thank you everyone for joining us this afternoon, including so many Disability Lead members and those who donated to support the accessibility of this program. If you are a person with a disability living in the Chicago region and are interested in joining our community, visit disabilitylead.org backslash apply to become a member or fellow in our 2022 Institute. All participants are in attendee mode only, but we encourage you to engage with us via social media using the hashtags hashtag we are Disability Lead and hashtag power influence change.

We have compiled so many great questions from all of you in advance and I will be asking as many as many of them as time allows. Note this program will end promptly at 3:40 to accommodate the Senator's schedule. Finally, today's non-partisan conversation is presented in partnership with the Disabilities Fund at the Chicago Community Trust and Chicago Public Library's Diversibility Advocacy, Women's History Month, and Asian American Pacific Islander Committees.

Okay so on to the program U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs who was among the first handful of army women to fly combat missions during operation Iraqi Freedom. Duckworth served in the reserve forces for 23 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2014. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois 8th congressional district for two terms. Senator Duckworth served on several influential committees that give her an important platform to advocate for Illinois working families, including the armed services committee, the environment and public works committee, the commerce science and transportation committee, and the small business and entrepreneurship committee. Welcome Senator and thank you so much for joining us, um, we received we received so many questions and are hoping to get through as many as possible, but before we get into our conversation can you start with the image description?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Yes, of course I am coming to you from my Senate auxiliary office it's got, um, creamy yellow walls and, uh, dark blue upholstered chairs I'm wearing a navy blue dress with my silver army aviators pendant it's a small set of wings with propeller and I have short brown hair it's brown because I just got my roots touched up and I just cut eight inches off it so it's a nice short bob that I curled to so I would look like my daughter who's a curly girl and, and so, uh, we're twinsies today.

EMILY BLUM: I love it I love it well thank you so much again, um, we always start our conversations with a question on power because this is a pI this is part of our Disability Power Series so can you talk about a specific moment in your life, uh, where you found your own power as a leader with a disability?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I, I would say that I found my own power and also my responsibility or my obligation at the same time. It really happened when I was elected to the House. So up until then I've been dealing with my disability and I sort of been accommodating others around it, you know bringing my own wheelchair ramps and all those sorts of things, you know and by this point I was rooted in, uh, 2004, um, and so I was elected and in 2012 so eight years later I'm now a US congresswoman and I'm sitting at my own office and the first thing that happened was a welcome a welcome gathering for new freshmen democrats and the DNC and the democratic leaders all knew that I, I used a wheelchair and then they held this welcome gathering on the second floor of a local restaurant that didn't have an elevator so I show up and they said well they you know they said we checked and it's accessible, yes, it was accessible for me to get in, but they held it in a special event space that I could not go to, so I could not go and join the rest of the others. And, and, um, and a couple of, uh, uh congressmen more senior members came down and sat with me so I wouldn't be by myself and that's when I realized I needed to change things.

I was part of the progressive party and I realized that my power is to say if you want me to show up places you better make sure it's completely ADA compliant, it is completely completely accessible not just for someone in a wheelchair, but for all disabilities. And so as people started asking me to do events or as I was planning events I started telling people we're not doing it, um, you want me there you want me to show up you want me to speak you want me to help you raise money I'm not coming unless it is fully accessible. They're like, but Tammy you have you can wear your artificial legs and you can walk up these three steps and I said that's not the point. The point is it needs to be accessible for all not just for me, but for anybody who wants to attend. And so it was both discovering my own power, but also my responsibilities to all of the other folks who may not have been able to access these spaces and the first year was pretty tough. There were a lot of events, you know a lot of there's a very, um, a favorite chinese restaurant that a lot of the democratic leadership like to hold their events at and it's on the second floor and there's no elevator and so now we don't do that anymore and, and that was part of me reclaiming my power, but also claiming my obligation to represent, um, the disability community.

EMILY BLUM: I think many of us have had that experience so it feels pretty cool that like you know that's also, uh, that's also experienced, uh, in the Senate as well or in the in the halls of congress as well so we're going to get into a lot of issues that are facing the disability community and instead of me describing those experiences we pre-recorded stories and questions from members of Disability Lead so you Senator and our audience can hear about them firsthand, um, and our first story and question comes from Andrés Gallegos.

ANDRES GALLEGOS: Good evening I'm Andres Gallégos I'm a hispanic male my pronouns are he him and his I have exceedingly gray hair, fair complexion. I have on black square framed eyeglasses, I'm wearing a long sleeve white shirt with a plaid tie consisting of blue tan and red stripes. I'm speaking to you from my home office. I'm a board member of Disability Lead, I am a disability rights attorney and as a result of your support I am honored to serve as chairman of the National Council on Disability.

Senator on July 26 we're going to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our landmark civil rights legislation. The Americans with Disabilities Act promise people with disabilities the equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of society. We've seen, however, during the pandemic where the ADA has fallen short as we look to rebuild and recover from the pandemic. What can be done to enhance the ADA to fully live up to its promise? I'll end by encouraging you to run for President after all I hear it's much easier running if you're a sitting Senator, pun fully intended.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: (laughter) Thank you so much for that question, um, no I am not gonna run for the for President, uh, because I would like to be a Senator for a long time so that I can do more, uh, for my country and you know when you're President, you're present for what four maybe eight years and that's it right? But if you run if you stay a Senator you can actually stay here and really help affect the path of this nation for for a long time to come so I'm happy with my great job representing my wonderful state of Illinois.

Um, I think there's several things we can do. I think that, um, one thing that COVID 19 did was show us, um, both some significant challenges, uh, we have in our country and, and really highlighted for the general population issues that are faced by members of the disability community, especially those who live in congregate facilities. Um, those who people you know experience much higher rates of of infection from COVID 19 initially who were not able to travel as easily to get tested or get vaccinations. So those were some of the challenges of it, but on the other hand it also showed some opportunities with more and more people able to work from home. It showed that the value of telecommuting and the capability of telecommunity. I know my office has been changed forever. I'm going to now go to a more hybrid model where I'm going to allow my staff to work in a telecommuting capacity, um,, uh, uh you know and at least some days of the week and because I found that some staff members were actually much more productive. And I think that is more conducive if you have a disability and you have challenges either with commuting, um, or or even working outside of your home. That doesn't make you any less productive, it just means that the place where you're most productive doesn't have to be a cubicle in an office someplace, but the place where you can be most productive might be a home office set up for you. And we provided all of the equipment that our that all of our staff needed, you know everything from ergonomic considerations and specialty chairs and all of that, um, to our staff and we found that they were much more productive.

So I see light coming out of COVID 19 somewhat of the lessons the positive lessons learned, but then also the the spotlight that was shown on the real severe shortcomings housing instability for example, um, affordable options where people can maintain, you know can can live independently if they want to, uh, have choices and options and as people lost jobs and we're not able to stay in their homes they may have doubly difficult time, um, regaining, uh, independent housing as a result of it so, um, I think we have some work to do with the ADA to reinforce the ADA I really want us to go on the offense. I'm tired of being under defense when it comes to ADA and we should really be pushing for more changes. So I've been, I've you know I put in, um, I'm going to reintroduce again my legislation on making sure that gyms and fitness facilities are fully accessible, um, and there's all sorts of other things that we can be working on and I look forward to working with the community on those initiatives.

EMILY BLUM: Um, you know recover, uh recovery offers us a lot of opportunities to evaluate systems and you mentioned housing which is definitely a concern for people with disabilities, of course there are you know grave life and death concerns for those who live in congregate facilities, but even for those who don't experience who don't live in in those settings, but experience disability poverty who may be undocumented, who are veterans--housing and stability is continues to be a key concern. How in this moment of recovery can we create affordable options where residents can maintain independence have choice and options are accessible?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I think that's where the choice part comes in that's where, um, I'm making sure that we include, uh, and not give up any of the care economy components to President Biden's, um,, uh, uh, uh, plans for what we're going to do to Build Back Better, and one of the things is the care economy, making sure that caregivers, uh, uh, um, are you know provided respite care, but then also those who provide, um, care in the home are paid a living wage and, and are honored for this important work that they do and that people have access and support, um, to be able to afford, uh, those home health aides and, and you know for those who want to live in a congregate setting, um, where it might be most appropriate, um, you should have that option. There should be enough of those facilities, um, with with the very best care and staff or paid a living wage and if that's a facility that you that works best for you that's where you want to live and then you should be able to choose that, but if you want to choose to stay in the home and that's what's best for you, uh, and live in the community that you should have that option.

We as a nation should be providing the support for either one of those options and right now most people live where, uh, uh where they can not where they would like to live, um, and, and that's where, um, you know making sure that, uh, uh bills like the medicare better jobs act, um,, uh, is critically important. I'm actually an original sponsor of that and would actually make sure that, uh, uh people with disabilities can access services that they would need to live in their homes and communities if that's what they believe is best for them. Um, I, I think that there are all sorts of things that we need to be doing with the CDC and really holding their feet to the fire when it comes to vaccination programs giving good, um, putting good information out there as we're dealing with covet, um, uh, and of course we have to work on hcbs and supplemental security income, uh, that is something that we we simply cannot give up on.

EMILY BLUM: Yeah thank you, um, I want to pivot to the topic of voter rights and voter suppression and how do we ensure this fundamental right is protected for both disabled voters and really everyone, and our next question comes from Disability Lead member Bri Beck.

BRI BECK: Hey Senator Duckworth my name is Bri. I live in Chicago and I am a voter with a disability. A quick image description of me is I am a white woman with long wavy brown hair. I'm wearing a jean jacket and I also am wearing black thick rimmed glasses. Um, so my question for you is related to access in the voting booth as a voter with a disability I have experienced the process of of going to vote and wondering what sort of barriers will be in place and a lot of times those are thought of as physical barriers. And while those are very important to think about, there's also the barriers of, um, you know whether or not I will have my privacy. There's concerns related to, you know, who's going to be there and who's going to help me and, and there's just there's an overall kind of psychological and emotional piece that comes with voting with a disability. Um, and so there are a lot of policies being pushed throughout the country right now to take away disabled voters' privacy, um, to make them go through a lot of different barriers and loopholes to prove their disability status with medical information and other private information that really shouldn't have to be submitted every time they want to just simply cast their ballot. So my question for you now is do you think that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act will help ensure voting access for people with disabilities, um, and if not how else might we maintain this fight?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well I do think that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act Advancement Act would ensure, uh, many of the rights for the disability community and privacy rights in the process of voting. Um, in fact I am, you know, this bill was really aimed at putting back many of the protections that were gutted by the Supreme Court than the shelby county beholder, uh, decision it basically...this bill would provide tools, um, to provide to address discriminatory practices and, and to protect the all Americans' rights to vote.

Let me just say, um, anecdotally the last time that I voted was, um, just earlier, uh, last year, uh, no this year, um, for my municipal elections for the mayor of my town and I went to my regular polling station that I've been going to for 15, 16 years and, um, they didn't have a wheelchair accessible voting machine that was working and, and, uh, it'd been down...I don't know how long it been now, but then nobody bothered to fix it. So I actually, because I do wear a left a prosthesis, because I have my amputation on my left side is it below knee I do wear my left prosthesis, um, I stood on one leg to vote. And luckily I'm strong enough and physically able to stand to vote, but it was painful. By the time I sat down, um, and I I've had people tell me that, um, one one person told me that she went in to vote, um, and she's another wheelchair user at a different precinct and there was a mutual accessible voting machine, but it was stuck on Chinese. Everything was in Chinese. So it's wonderful that we provide voting access in multiple languages, but you should be able to switch out. Luckily one of the poll workers, um, was a child as a Mandarin speaking American woman and, and she helped translate, but that takes away your privacy there, right? You got somebody there that you'd want plenty you don't know who this person is and then, yeah they're a poll worker, but now they're in there in the voting booth with you so those are the kinds of things that we need to be addressing as well as, uh, just, um, you know they're not there there should not be an increased burden on persons with disabilities to prove that you are disabled so that you can have access to ballot by mail, for example or early voting, um, and those are all things that are protected, uh, under the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I will tell you that I will vote, uh, for people to expand people's access to vote any day, uh, uh over choosing to protect the rights of 100 Senators to maintain the filibuster so I am fully supportive of ending the filibuster in order to pass the Voting Rights Act, Senate Bill 1.

EMILY BLUM: Thank you, um, you know it's really interesting because voter rights is a civil rights issue that's intersectional and it's clear how it disproportionately impacts voters of color and disabled voters. You know, how can we leverage this civil rights example for other rights building? In other words, how do we make the ADA more intersectional? How do we make LGBTQ+ rights more intersectional, women's rights more intersectional, et cetera et cetera?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well I you know I, I think that, um, part of this is understanding the systemic nature of the discrimination that happens, um, that that literally, uh, it's it's structural and with the physic physical buildings not being accessible uh, um,, uh, to more roadblocks that are artificially put up that are meant to block, uh, persons of color or people from lower income communities from being able to vote and it catches persons with disability in the same net. And I think that's where we can be intersectional especially with, uh, groups like the AARP, um,, uh, like, um,, uh, NAACP you know so that we bring in seniors, we bring in persons of color, we bring in groups of folks who are fighting for the for the right to the access to voting. Um,, uh, in a way that also affects, you know, and would benefit the disability community because the same, by the way we should also be bringing in military veterans, you know, does the same the these same bills that that that prohibit, uh, uh vote by mail will affect military veterans who aren't many of them military service men and women vote by mail--I voted by mail from Iraq and to say that you're not going to count my ballot, um, you know even as I'm wearing the nation's flag and, and getting shot at, there's there's real intersectionality. So I think you you can see where these points exist and coming together, um, and finding organizations who can help translate them I think is important. Um, because we we we're still learning to be each other's allies and I think this is where organizational leaders coming together and working together to point out those areas of intersectionality and educating our communities is really critical as well, because so often you get very much focused on the issue that you are working on and you don't realize there's somebody else working on the same issue and that they're in a parallel lane to you when you to be doing it together.

EMILY BLUM: Right how do how do we be, um, how do we both need allies and be allies for others I think it's really important, um, the next topic we want to focus on is employment, and people with disabilities experience a disproportionate higher rate of unemployment than those who don't have disabilities. And in 2020 during the pandemic we saw a seven year high unemployment rate at 12.6 percent, um, our next question around changing this dynamic comes from Disability Lead member Brian Rohde.

BRIAN ROHDE: Hi Senator Duckworth my name is Brian Rohde. I'm a young white male with short blonde hair and I wear black glasses. I, I identify myself as having a disability. I'm autistic. I graduated from Valparaiso University with my degree in geography and I've been struggling for years trying to find a job. There are barriers that prevent people with disabilities, um, from being successful at finding a job. People with disabilities may need accommodations. However there are people with disabilities that bring many unique skills to the workplace. And so Senator I'm wondering what you are doing to help people with disabilities like me be successful at finding a job?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Thank you thank you for that question, um, I, I think again this is finding the wrap around services and also making sure that we enforce, um, laws and policies that exist that prevent discrimination against a person with disabilities. If anything, um, in addition to the skill set that people with disabilities bring to the marketplace with employment, you know this, right, we, there's far less turnover, they're far more loyal as employees and they're far more productive, uh, once they have a job because they're committed to that job, because they understand the preciousness of that employment and of an employer that's willing to give them an opportunity to support them. Um, and so it's about making sure that we enforce already existing laws and regulations and, and policies, but then there's a few things that we have to work on. I mean, uh, you know section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act, it really dates quite a way back to 1938. Um, it, you know it it allows this really terrible, uh, uh, um, practice of of paying workers with intellectual developmental disabilities especially minimum wage, um, I am a co-sponsor of a bill that will end that practice. Um,, uh, last Congress I also was a co-sponsor of the Senator Casey's bill Transformation to Competitive Employment Act which, it will provide states service providers sub-minimum wage certificate holders and other agencies the resources that they need to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive integrated employment, and so we need to stop this process of special minimum wage, but at the same time, uh, we also need to make sure that the employers are able to make that transition as well and then and support help them be able to make that transition.

I also think that, um, anything that we can do to help incentivize employers who hire persons with disabilities, uh, is is a positive thing I mean it could be something as simple as you know every time I go and I, and I, I meet with a fortune 500 company and, and I talk to them about their board members you know I should I do and I say so how many of your board members are people of color or persons with disabilities and they'll say I don't know and I said well then you need to keep track of this the next time I come to talk to you I want to know and once you start keeping track and people know that you're watching then they start to pay attention to it. It's why I included in the latest service transportation bill language that requires Amtrak to have on its board a person with disability and they push back and say well what about just having someone who's responsible for disability issues I said no, I want a board member who is not only an expert in the view, but it's also themselves a person living with a disability to be on the Amtrak board and that is actually in the highway bill, uh, that just, um, that just passed out of the out of committee and, and we're hoping that you know that whole thing will get picked up and passed, um, as well so those are the kinds of things we need to be working on.

Um, and then again it's it's it's for those private employers making sure that they know that we're watching and holding them accountable for it is critically important and I'm very supportive of anything that we can do to incentivize folks. But I will tell you once employers hire someone with a disability, they themselves see the benefits because they're like, wow, this person is really loyal, wow this person is really productive, wow they you know they I don't have to spend money training new people all the time because it's such low turnover so they see the benefits themselves once once they take a chance.

EMILY BLUM: Um, you know hand-in-hand, uh, with employment is of course wealth building, um, and that is another aspect that's incredibly challenging and remains inequitable for many people with disabilities. You mentioned sub-minimum wage and eliminating that, but also you know the requirements of essentially poverty to maintain life-sustaining benefits, um, in general we have difficulty accessing wealth and with lack of wealth comes lack of power. Can you talk about your efforts to both fundamentally change these systems and build and build wealth among people with disabilities?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Yeah you know I think this is this is the Able Act was supposed to address this a little bit right so that you don't draw down, you're not forced to draw down all of your money, all of your savings in order to access the much needed support in order to live a a productive rewarding life that you want to live in the manner that you want to live. But we force people artificially, even if they are not already struggling, when we force people into poverty by saying well you can't get help, uh, if you don't do this and this is also part of making sure that we really overhaul our health care system, uh, and our family and care economy this goes back to what President Biden was talking about and has been talking about which is we have to fix our nation's care infrastructure, our family infrastructure as well so that people can indeed access the help that they need to live as productive a life as they want to live without having to, you know, our artificially drawn down into poverty. So I'm fully supportive of those efforts, um, and, and I think that it's we have to go at it in several ways, uh, not just about changing the requirements under medicaid and, um, the medicaid program and social security programs, but also, um, making sure that we really enforce and, and, and, um, existing laws already like the Able Act making you know getting it to work properly the way it was envisioned to work, but then also making sure that, um, we help folks be able to access through having their own health care, uh, the support that they need these should all be parts of what you get when you have health care in this country so that if you need a little extra help, uh, to maintain your health in order to work then you should have access to that.

You know I listen when I started as a as a Congresswoman six months into my job, the attending physician of the capital company and put me on blood pressure medication, and then he says it happens to every congress person at the six-month mark. And when I became a Senator he doubled the dosage. You know I if I was able to access the prescription medication in order to do my job to keep me healthy so I can do my job as a congregator as a Senator we should all be able to access whatever that care is or whatever that support is, whether it's transportation infrastructure or or having someone to help you you know, uh, uh with daily tasks, um, all of those things should be part of what we have as part of the care economy, and I think that's what President Biden is really pushing for and that's where, um, Senator Casey Casey has really been leading on this and I'm fully supportive with him on it as well.

EMILY BLUM: Great, um, thank you our final question centers the intersection of racism and ableism and comes from Disability Lead Member Azeema Akram.

AZEEMA AKRAM: Hi Senator Duckworth my name is Azeema Akram and I'm an administrative law judge at the Illinois Human Rights Commission. I'm also hard of hearing. A brief image description of myself: I'm a south Asian woman with long dark brown hair and brown eyes. I'm wearing a navy blue dress with gold slippers on the sleeves. I recently read an article by the activist Alice Wong that articulated something that I have personally experienced, that an additional barrier faced by Asian Americans with disabilities is the model minority myth, which is a harmful construct that supports white supremacy. And in the past year, members of our community have experienced a significant increase in discrimination due to bigotry resulting from Asian hate in light of the COVID 19 pandemic. From an Asian American legislator's perspective what do you think we need to do in the disability community to address the additional barriers faced by our members who have intersectional identities, particularly the Asian American members of our community?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Thank you. So I will say that this is a true intersectional, uh, point of intersection in in many ways, uh, bottom line, uh, it's everything from criminal justice reform to, uh, uh making sure that we we address hate crimes, um, that maybe we...This past year we've been talking about hate crimes against Asian Americans and as you said, the modern minority myth that Asian Americans don't need additional health because you know we're all math, we're all math students or doctors and accountants, um, and, and that's just simply not true. A lot of Asian Americans struggle, um, and, and crimes against Asian Americans are significantly underreported just as they are, uh, crimes against persons with disabilities, uh, are significantly underreported and that's where we need to do a better job of basically one, building up the databases that we are cataloging when those when those crimes those hate crimes are occurring and identifying them as such, but this is the intersectionality piece of it is that you know just as we train police officers who, uh, you know when they go into Black and Brown communities to have better community policing, uh, training and, and better standards, uh, of policing so that they don't you know very quickly escalate into violence. Those same police officers have to be trained on persons with disabilities that, yes, Black and Brown, uh, uh members of our society are shot more often by police officers and are the victim of police violence more often than others of other communities, but so are people who are hard of hearing because those police officers don't know that you're hard of hearing so they come in and they're shouting orders and someone with a hearing disability is not answering or someone who's autistic is not answering in in the normal way or the expected way and that very quickly escalates. Um,, but if that person is in a white neighborhood in an affluent neighborhood it doesn't escalate as quickly as if that person who's autistic or that person who has a hearing disability is in the Black or Brown neighborhood it escalates much faster, and this is true intersectionality that's happening it's why I included I I'm actually the sponsor I wrote the bill, um, called the police uh, um, training and independent investigation act, um, that Kamala Harris when she was, um, a Senator included in our overall criminal justice reform and now Cory Booker's meeting and he's put into his which says that we're going to provide training with police for police forces, uh, on not just uh, um, community relations with Black and Brown communities that we're going to train them on disability, uh, the disability community and in order to get this grant money for training, um, we're gonna have independent review of all police involved shootings and, and, um, and, um,, uh, injuries of and you know injuries of of civilians so that it's not just the same local prosecutor who relies on the local police force that's investigating that police force.

It says there's a lot of nepotism that goes on there that we need to stop, um, and then we also need to you know I don't subscribe to the defund the police movement because I think our police officers need to have the resources to do their jobs. What I subscribe to is funding social services programs and other programs so that when somebody in Chicago for example you call 9-1-1 because somebody you love is having a mental health crisis, the person who comes through your door is not a mental health professional, it's actually more likely to be a police officer and body armor with a taser or a sidearm, um, and so that very quickly escalate. What we should be funding is more programs on mental health, more programs on addiction, more training, and more programs with these other social services so that the person who shows up at your door is the right person to deal with the problem there might be a police officer in a squad car out on the corner, but at least the person who comes through your door when you call and say my son is having a mental health crisis is a mental health professional, and all of those folks all of those folks need to be trained, uh, uh when it comes to the structural, uh, uh racism and discrimination that exists within our society and it's not just against minorities, but also persons with disabilities as well.

EMILY BLUM: I think we have time for one more question, um, and a lot of questions we received from attendees focused around being a person with a disability and running for and holding public office. So in your final moments with us, what advice can you share with future disabled candidates about running for an elected position? What do you know now that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your political career?

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Um, you know it's things are a little bit different now because there are more persons with disabilities who have now achieved office you know, uh, uh and I think the key thing is to just be yourself. My first run that I ran and lost for Congress, um,, uh, I was just fresh I literally left Walter Reed, um, army hospital, uh, early against doctor's orders in order to run for Congress I was within you know 10 months of having, um, well 11 months within sorry I was 13 months from being wounded and about 10 months when I first got my first set of prosthesis and I was still trying to present myself as able-bodied, so I was, you know, we, I wore my legs all the time, I walked everywhere, I didn't really let people see my legs as much, um, and I was trying to present, uh, uh in that way and, um, I realized that that was just a lot of effort for no reason, um, and in fact it was more powerful for people to see me as who I am and so being true to yourself is what I would say to people it doesn't, um, you know that that that is more powerful that the people are much more appreciative and much more impressed by you if you represent us who you are and, and show that, um,, uh, you understand the problems that they're facing in their lives and that, uh, you share in their concerns and then you're willing to work hard for them no matter what, um, so I, I would just say don't hide don't hide your disability because that works against you in the long run, um, even if it doesn't work against you in terms of messaging you're just exhausted it's exhausting right and, and, and, and it denies who you truly are so be be true to yourself and I think people pick up on that and it makes you much more powerful voice.

EMILY BLUM: Yeah well thank you so much Senator for your time and your insight today. We know your schedule is packed, um, and we are incredibly grateful for your participation and we look forward to connecting with you soon.

SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Thank you thank you everybody, be well, bye-bye.

EMILY BLUM: Thank you also to the Disabilities Fund at the Chicago Community Trust and Chicago Public Library's Diversibility Advocacy, Women's History Month, and Asian American Pacific Islander Committees for your support of this program and our Disability Power Series. Before we jump off, we have a few announcements join our network of positive disruptors if you are a person with a disability living in the Chicago region and are interested in joining our community visit disabilitylead.org backslash apply to become a member or a fellow in our 2022 Institute. If you would like to continue to see Disability Lead produce accessible events like these, please consider contributing to our program at disabilitylead.org/donate. And finally, stay engaged with us, follow us on social media--we're on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin--and learn about our work and make sure you don't miss events like today's. Thank you and have a wonderful afternoon.

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