Advocates: Legislature Excluding People With Disabilities And Older Adults

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2021 - 11:47am
Updated: Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 12:52pm

Arizona lawmakers are back in session at the state Capitol. But some advocates worry that not enough is being done to give people with disabilities and older adults a chance to participate in upcoming legislative hearings that could impact them. 

On Tuesday, advocates held a conference call to discuss the challenges facing populations that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, including people of color, those with disabilities and older adults. 

Maddy Bynes is with Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the Pima Council on Aging. She said some of the rules, such as requiring masks and social distancing, are a step in the right direction…

"In the house. for instance, the allowance of remote testimony is left up to the chair's discretion," she said. "Should the chair decide not to allow remote testimony older adults have to choose if they should use their voice or if they should remain at home," Bynes said. 

Another hurdle is the request-to-speak process. Currently it requires an in-person trip to the Capitol to sign up. Advocates say it can and should be done online. 

One of the speakers was Phil Pangrazio. He is the CEO of Ability 360, a disability organization. He said many people with disabilities are not planning to testify in person this year because of the risks due to the coronavirus. 

"People with disabilities want and need to be at the table," he said. "From the beginning, all the way through to the end is unfair. If only special interest and high profile lobbyists have the ears of policymakers. If virtual testimony is limited and in person visits remain the only way to be heard."

And Asim Dietrich from the Arizona Center for Disability Law echoed Pangrazio saying the legislature is required to provide reasonable modifications to policies and procedures for people with disabilities, such as providing the chance to participate in hearings remotely. 

Aging Disability