Disability rights champion spotlights need for accessible housing, voting

click to enlarge A man uses a touch screen voting machine equipped for the hearing and vision impaired. - Shutterstock
A man uses a touch screen voting machine equipped for the hearing and vision impaired.

It is Developmental Disability Awareness Month, and groups are spotlighting housing and voting as two major areas of concern.

To mark International Women's Day, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities held a virtual event Tuesday.

Tameka Citchen-Spruce, a disability justice advocate and former Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2006 who spoke at the event, said it is crucial to make sure every polling place has a working voting machine for people who cannot fill out a paper ballot. And while the affordable housing crisis affects many in Michigan, she said there are additional factors if you are living with a disability.

"Finding accessible and affordable housing, as everyone knows, is a tremendous challenge, particularly when you have a physical disability; use a wheelchair, like myself," Citchen-Spruce explained.

Nationwide, roughly 57 million Americans live with some form of disability, and about 180,000 Michiganders have a developmental disability.

Citchen-Spruce is a filmmaker in addition to being an activist, and she said advocating for disability rights and storytelling go hand in hand.

"I think it's so important, because we need representation in the media," Citchen-Spruce asserted. "People need a reflection of themselves and their stories matter. And so that's why, alongside my disability advocacy, I think it's so important to create representation and tell stories."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Michigan. She said the state Department of Health and Human Services encourages residents to recognize Michigan's advances, but also to acknowledge the work is not yet done to ensure full inclusion of people with disabilities.

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