State representative denied accommodations for disability
FITCHBURG, Wis. — A state representative from Fitchburg is hoping the speaker of the Assembly changes his mind after telling the representative he couldn’t call in to committee meetings in place of being there in person.
Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair to get around. He uses assistance for parts of his life from the beginning of the day until he goes to bed.
He said getting to committee meetings with only 15 minutes notice or staying overnight for sessions isn’t healthy or possible for him, so he asked Speaker Robin Vos for accommodations, including being able to call in to committee meetings when he can’t get there in time.
Talked w/@Rep_Jimmy about the accommodations he would like from @SpeakerVos because of his disability:
1) no overnight sessions (he can’t sit in his chair that long)
2) reschedule with enough time for him to get there.
3) allow him to call into meetings he can’t get to.#News3Now pic.twitter.com/JMJtG6mt4r
— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) July 31, 2019
The speaker said no, telling one news outlet it is disrespectful to the people who take the time to testify in person. Vos has not given any comment since, including after multiple requests from News 3 Now.
“What I think is disrespectful is making it harder for me to be the best representative that I can be for the 47th Assembly District and for the people of Wisconsin,” Anderson said.
Anderson made two other requests in addition to asking to be allowed to call into committee meetings. They include no more overnight sessions that require Anderson to stay in his chair longer than is healthy and rescheduling hearings at reasonable hours and with enough time for him to get there.
Anderson referenced one session that was rescheduled at 6 a.m. for 6:15 a.m. When he woke up, he found out he’d missed the vote.
He said he wishes Vos would talk to him about why he is resistant to the accommodations, one of which, the ability to call into meetings, is already allowed in the state Senate. He said he is willing to discuss why it is necessary, but he won’t cave on what is necessary.
“It’s not about me specifically,” Anderson said. “It’s about everyone else with a disability. If you know someone with a disability, love someone with a disability or are someone with a disability, when someone like Speaker Vos says you can’t have these accommodations, what he’s saying is you can’t achieve everything that you want to achieve.”
Anderson said if he doesn’t hear from Vos within the next few weeks, he will file a lawsuit against the state under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said there is precedent for the case, but doesn’t want to burden the taxpayers if the issue can be solved outside of court.
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