Disabled Wisconsin lawmaker says leaders won't let him call into meetings

Disabled Wisconsin lawmaker says leaders won't let him call into meetings
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A disabled Wisconsin legislator says that his requests to call into meetings due to health issues have been denied by the legislature’s leadership, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

State Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D), who uses a wheelchair, said an assembly rule preventing him from participating in committee meetings unless he is physically present violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Anderson told the newspaper that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) has declined to make an exception to the rule.

"It’s the first time I’ve ever had to ask for simple dignities, right?" he said. "It’s a frustrating thing to have to ask just to be included in the process."

Vos argued that the legislature has already accommodated Anderson’s needs by providing him with a computer equipped with voice recognition software.

"It just comes down to the fact that I think it’s disrespectful for someone to be asking questions over a microphone or a speakerphone when individuals are actually taking the time out of their day to come and testify in person," he told the Journal Sentinel.

In response, Anderson said, "I think it is absolutely ridiculous to say that an accommodation needed for a disability would somehow be disrespectful to people."

"I think it's disrespectful to exclude a duly elected member of the Legislature to be able to fully participate when the need for an accommodation arises," he added.

Vos expressed skepticism that the landmark ADA, which passed 29 years ago this month, applied to the case, as it is a federal law, while the state Legislature has wide latitude to set its own rules.

Anderson, who was paralyzed in a 2010 traffic collision with a drunken driver that killed his parents and brother, said he is considering suing over the lack of accommodation but is still researching whether he is considered an “employee” for the purposes of the law.

“There are some very personal and private things that are related to my health and disability that no other representative is expected to talk about with Vos,” he said. “It’s crazy that I would have to have discussions with Vos about those issues just to get simple accommodations.”