Larry Biondi, the advocacy coordinator at the Progress Center for Independent Living (PCIL) on Madison Street, is a “troublemaker” in the sense of the late John Lewis.
Biondi will travel to Springfield this week – virtually online – to testify before the Senate Government Committee in Support of Senate Act 921 (SB921) on behalf of the 19% of Illinois residents who have a disability.
Larry Biondi | Photo provided
Clark Craig, a community organizer at PCIL, explained the importance of the bill to the disability community, saying, “An Access and Functional Needs Advisory Committee will be established to address the challenges disasters and emergencies faced by people with disabilities in Illinois face and continue to face. ”
For example, if you live in a multi-story rental building, there is a sign on every elevator door instructing you to use the stairs in situations where the power goes out. What should Biondi, whose disability is caused by cerebral palsy and who moves around in an electric wheelchair, do in times like these when he lives on the fourth floor?
News during the pandemic has often indicated that the elderly who live in congregations and black and brown people were disproportionately affected by the virus. Craig thinks another cohort should be added to the list.
“The COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, “has [also] revealed the greatest inequalities people with disabilities face, particularly in relation to emergency preparedness and response. The Inclusive Disaster Strategies Partnership found that people with disabilities and older adults account for over 42% of COVID-19 deaths. “
According to Craig, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s (IEMA is the state version of FEMA) contingency plan does not contain specific language or comprehensive disaster strategies tailored to the needs of people with disabilities. In addition, none of the IEMA training courses address disability issues in emergency management. “
What SB921, tabled by Senator Julie Morrison, is doing to eradicate inequalities is to establish an Access and Functional Needs Advisory Committee to:
• Recommendations for responding to the needs of people with access and function problems before, during and after a disaster.
• Ensure people with disabilities are included in the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s plans.
• Recommendations for IEMA to integrate access and functional requirements into their emergency plan.
If approved by the committee on which the bill is currently awaiting processing, it will be sent to the entire Senate for a vote and, if approved, to the House of Representatives. At the time the review went to press, Biondi did not know when to testify before the committee.
Since his language is difficult to understand for most people, he uses two forms of communication to verbalize his thoughts. One is a voice device that needs to be programmed in advance and sounds something like the mechanical voice we hear when we call a pharmacy. When Biondi wants to make an impromptu comment that is not programmed into the device, he asks Clark Craig, who understands his speech better than almost anyone because he shares an office, repeating what he said in a way that which is easier to understand.
The officers are what Marshall McCluhan would say, an example of “the medium is the message”. Craig himself has a mild speech impediment, so the two fearless partners in the legal profession have an impact on lawmakers by just being present.
When the two proponents learned of the call to testify before the committee, they quickly took action, urging the disabled community to submit so-called witness statements, a way in which proponents of a bill can influence the legislative process.
“In just two days,” said Craig with a smile, “166 advocates took part, including registrations from both individuals and disability, health and advocacy organizations such as the Progress Center, Access Living, Equip for Equality and The Arc of Illinois . ” . ”
Craig said that at least one in five people in Illinois currently has a disability. More than 25,000 Illinois residents receive home and community-based services to help them live outside of institutions. Due to the lack of PPE and support, these communities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“The past year,” he said, “has shown the need for emergency response that puts the rights and lives of people with disabilities and older adults first.” We can do better. “
To request personal protective equipment, call the Progress Center at 708-209-1500 or email Kira Meskin at [email protected]. Emergency number: 833-491-1418 (toll free). Hotline for vaccination appointments: 1-833-308-1988 and is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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