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Lawmaker Who Is Paralyzed Denied Accommodations By GOP Leadership In State Capitol

Lawmaker Who Is Paralyzed Denied Accommodations By GOP Leadership In State Capitol

A member of the Wisconsin State Assembly is requesting that accommodations be granted to him to help him attend meetings by phone because he is not always able to make them in-person due to being paralyzed from the chest down. That request is being denied to him by Republican leadership.

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Rep. Jimmy Anderson, a Democrat, made a request to Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos last month, asking that, when he’s unable to make meetings in person, he be able to use telecommunications in order to phone himself into committee hearings. Anderson uses a wheelchair to attend most of the meetings, but isn’t always able to make every single one due to his health condition, Talking Points Memo reported.

Vos has refused to budge on the issue, claiming the accommodations Anderson is requesting go beyond what is reasonable. He also believes that it would be disrespectful to any of the committee’s witnesses if one of the members of the committee weren’t there in person to question them.

Anderson vehemently disagreed with that assertion.

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

According to a spokesperson for Anderson, the lawmaker may consider sparking a legal challenge to address the issue, but he’d rather avoid doing so.

“The representative would prefer not to put the taxpayers of Wisconsin on the line for Vos’ poor behavior,” the spokesperson said. “But if the people of Wisconsin can’t pressure him to do the right thing, he’s willing to take that next step.”

Anderson was paralyzed in 2010 from the chest down, the result of suffering injuries from a car driven by a drunken driver that crashed into his family’s vehicle that year. Both of his parents and his brother died in the crash.

The Wisconsin State Journal, viewed as a moderate publication, has editorialized that Vos should accommodate Anderson, pointing out that Republicans have often touted the idea that “government should run more like a business.”

Were that truly the case, the paper’s opinion board argued, Vos would take the steps necessary to accommodate Anderson’s disability, based on the conditions required to do so within the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial board also noted that in the opposite chamber, state senators are already allowed to phone into meetings, similar in ways to the request being made by Anderson.

“Anderson prefers to be at meetings but can’t always make it. No one at a public hearing should be offended by that,” the board opined.

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