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Why Voting Rights Matter for People with Disabilities

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This event is presented in partnership with Albert Shanker Institute.

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One in four people in the United States have a disability, making the disabled community one of the largest voting blocs in our country. Yet, they face enormous challenges in exercising their right to vote, from polling place accessibility issues to guardianship laws, and more. At the same time, states are increasingly restricting access to voting for all Americans.

Please join U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and a distinguished group of experts on Wednesday, December 8, from 1:30 to 2:30 PM ET as we discuss the threat to voting rights and why it is critical to protect them, especially for people with disabilities, and what Congress is considering doing to protect voting rights for all Americans.

Live captions and ASL interpretation will be available.

Please register to obtain the Zoom link.

Welcome Remarks:

  • Ralph Neas, senior counsel on voting rights, The Century Foundation

Keynote Speakers:

  • Judy Heumann, international disability rights activist
  • Maria Town, president and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities

Moderator:

  • Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Panelists:

  • U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Mia Ives-Rublee, director, disability justice initiative, Center for American Progress
  • Lisa A. Schur, professor, labor studies and employment relations (LSER); director, program for disability research, Rutgers University
  • Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers, AFL–CIO

Closing Remarks:

  • Mary Cathryn D. Ricker, NBCT, executive director, Albert Shanker Institute

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Speaker Bios

Judy Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. Throughout her life, Judy has traveled in her motorized wheelchair to countries on every continent, in urban and rural communities alike. She has played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation, including the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, was published by Beacon Press, and she is featured in the documentary film Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first special advisor for international disability rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010 to 2017.

Maria Town is the president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. In this role, she works to increase the political and economic power of people with disabilities. Prior to this she served as the director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, where she advocated for the rights and needs of citizens with disabilities, served as a liaison between the mayor, city council, city departments, and other public and private entities on matters pertaining to people with disabilities in Houston, and established local and national partnerships to advance inclusion. Town is the former senior associate director in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement where she managed the White House’s engagement with the disability community and older Americans.

Ralph Neas is presently senior counsel on voting rights for The Century Foundation. Formerly he was executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the “Lobbying Arm of the Civil Rights Movement”; president and CEO of People For the American Way; chief legislative assistant to Republican senators Edward W. Brooke and David Durenberger; and taught at the University of Chicago Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, and Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago Law School.

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 twenty-three 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.

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, leads the country’s oldest and most diverse coalition of civil and human rights organizations. The Leadership Conference was founded in 1950 and aims to ensure equality under law through legislative advocacy and public education. It consists of more than 220 national organizations and represents people of color, LGBTQ individuals, women, children, individuals with disabilities, religious groups, civil libertarians, and human rights organizations. The Leadership Conference is a leader in promoting voting rights, criminal justice reform, fair housing, economic justice, equal educational opportunity, judicial diversity, and more. The Education Fund builds public will for federal and state policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference.

Mr. Henderson received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his law degree from the Rutgers University School of Law. He previously served as president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund from 1996-2017. Prior to his role with The Leadership Conference, Mr. Henderson served as the Washington Bureau Director of the NAACP; as Associate Director of the Washington national office of the ACLU; and as Executive Director of the Council on Legal Education and Opportunity.

Mia Ives-Rublee is the director for the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Prior to that, she advocated for disability justice and inclusion at nonprofit organizations and businesses across the United States. She has worked with Women’s March, Families Belong Together, DC Action Lab, Adoptees for Justice, Fair Fight, People’s Collective for Justice and Liberation, and numerous other progressive organizations.

Lisa A. Schur, focuses on disability issues in employment and labor law, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act and its relationship to other laws and social policies. She also studies alternative work arrangements such as contingent work, and the connections between workplace experiences and political participation. Her work has appeared in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Social Science Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Industrial Relations and other journals.

Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, a union of 1.7 million teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early child- hood educators. The AFT is dedicated to the belief that every person in America deserves the freedom to thrive, fueled by opportunity, justice and a voice in our democracy. Prior to her election as AFT president in 2008, Weingarten served for 11 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, representing approximately 200,000 educators in the New York City public school system, as well as home child care providers and other workers in health, law and education. Weingarten taught history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood from 1991 to 1997, and helped her students win several state and national awards debating constitutional issues.

Mary Cathryn Ricker is a National Board Certified middle school English teacher serving as Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute. The Institute is dedicated to defending and extending democracy, promoting quality public education as a cornerstone of American democracy, improving and strengthening the contributions of unions, and celebrating the power of ideas by expanding access to information while encouraging free and rigorous debate.

In addition to her classroom teaching experience, Ms Ricker’s previous leadership has included serving as Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education, Executive vice-president of the American Federation of Teachers and President of her local union in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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Organizer The Century Foundation

Organizer of Why Voting Rights Matter for People with Disabilities

The Century Foundation is a progressive public policy think tank that seeks to foster opportunity, reduce inequality, and promote security at home and abroad. Founded in 1919, TCF pursues its mission by conducting timely, nonpartisan research and policy analysis that informs citizens, guides policymakers, and reshapes what government does for the better. TCF is based in New York, with a satellite office in Washington, D.C. 

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