The Disability Community needs a Mayor who is a true advocate. The community needs someone who will not only commit to providing the community with the access and services it needs, but who will actually prioritize the budget and create the programs to ensure implementation. Paul Vallas will be that Mayor.
As Mayor, Paul Vallas will:
- Ensure all City facilities adhere to ADA standards and all City departments and agencies that serve the public and that distribute resources act in a way that provides the disability community with full access to these resources and services.
- Initiate, strengthen and monitor fair City hiring practice strategies to encourage and support City employment of people with disabilities.
- Ensure that all resources from the City and the other governmental enterprises the city controls, including CPS, the Park District, the CTA, the CHA, the Airports, etc., will be allocated to ensure people with disabilities have full access to their resources and services.
- Empower the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities to ensure all city enterprises are inclusive and operating under Universal Design principles (i.e., consider needs of people with disabilities from inception of all programs/projects).
- Require recipients of City and City-controlled enterprises’ grants, subsidies and contracts to comply with City accessibility and hiring goals.
- Have no more important priority than ensuring that all CPS schools are in full ADA compliance, meet special education mandates, and improve and fully implement ADA25 CPS Legacy project targeting literacy. This means moving to ensure all schools are physically accessible and each and every student is learning.
- Develop a plan to assist charter schools in meeting ADA standards and ensure that all charter schools are complying with special education mandates.
Empowering the Disability Community
The Vallas administration will institutionalize the process of developing, budgeting and implementing programs and services for people with disabilities to ensure that the community is empowered through continuous and active input. An empowered community means the community having real input on setting goals, prioritizing budgets, monitoring compliance. There will be full transparency and accountability for those who fail to implement policies.
Chicago Disability Advisory Council
To enable the disability community to impact public policy and programs and to hold governmental agencies fully accountable, Vallas will create with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Chicago Disability Advisory Council, whose members will be selected by the disability community. This council will not only provide a direct channel for the community to to the Mayor’s Office, but will give them, via ordinance, authority to publicly review budgets, ADA compliance plans, hiring practices, and more.
Placing People with Disabilities in Executive Positions
Vallas is committed to selecting people from and recommended by the disability community to fill critical leadership positions in city departments, and will have representatives from the disability community on all boards who oversee agencies and entities that impact the public.
This commitment means recruiting qualified people with disabilities to serve in executive positions in Contracts and Procurement, CTA, Transportation, Housing, etc. The disability advocacy community can help identify qualified individuals for critical appointments in all City departments and agencies. Furthermore, Vallas will make sure that all critical boards have a member who is recommended by the disability community, including the Board of Education, the Community College Board, CTA, the police board, and more.
The Vallas Record and Experience
There is no candidate in this race who has a record of doing more to address the needs of people with disabilities than Paul Vallas. As someone who himself lived for years with a severe speech impediment and who grew up with a longtime childhood friend who had a disability—and became a longtime independent living advocate and activist for people with disabilities—Paul Vallas has long appreciated the role that effective government needs to play in providing support and full access and services to individuals with disabilities.
Furthermore, it has been Vallas’ good fortune of having worked renowned special educator, attorney, and advocate Sue Gamm as his colleague since he first appointed her as the specialized services chief officer at CPS two decades ago. This exposure and expert guidance further enhanced Vallas’ appreciation of and actions needed to address the needs of students with disabilities, as well as expanded his network of leaders and advocates in the disability community from whom to learn.
Such key leaders and advocates in the disability community include the incomparable disability right activist Marca Bristo, who was instrumental in the development of the ADA and accessibility components of CPS’ $3.2 billion capital plan during Vallas’ tenure.
Vallas has additionally worked closely with the City’s Director of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities during his time spent as City Budget Director and understands the need for prioritization of the budget to actually bring programs and services for people with disabilities to fruition.
Highlights as City Budget Director and Schools CEO
- Implemented commitment to Access Living to substantially increase the number of physically accessible CPS schools, with health centers present in all new schools.
- Supported strong working relationship with disability advocates and organizations.
- Promoted the hiring of people with disabilities at the City and at CPS.
- Provided record level funding for the Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
- Significantly increased number of young children educated with their non-disabled peers through innovative blended preschool classes, and supported efforts to increase/improve inclusive education for all students
- Supported initiation of the CDC’s Coordinated School Health model, which brought together all CPS departments & community-based organizations related to one of the model’s components, e.g., physical and behavioral health. Supported advocacy/enrollment of students in Kid Care; creation of vision, hearing and dental program; etc.