Life of people with disabilities in Chicago: What makes them different?
Author: Jiae Myung
Program of Study: Harris School of Public Policy MPP
(transcript was provided by student and is unedited)
Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2021. I’m your host, Jiae Myung, and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Today we will be exploring the topic of the way of Chicago approach the policy for people with disabilities
When I came to Chicago at first, I could see many of the disabled with assistance at the O’Hare airports and on my way hotel, the CTA bus stopped and served the woman with a wheelchair for a while. It was pretty surprising to me in few aspects. Above all, I had never seen such many people with disabilities in public places before. Also, nobody expressed uncomfortable the late departure of the bus caused by serving the disabled. For these reasons, I was interested in what makes people with disabilities come into the world so actively in Chicago!
Many cities in the world are trying to find a way for the disabled to live equally with the abled. They establish laws and make policies to realize the equality of life of people with disabilities. In this manner, the City of Seoul where I have been worked as a public officer has laws and policies for the disabled. However, meeting people with disabilities on the street or workplace does not happen very often. Let’s some comparative examples with Seoul and Chicago, a bus with lift system “Non-Step Bus” has been providing since 2004 in Seoul. However, I have seen using this system by persons with disabilities only a couple of times for 12 years.
What might be the cause of the difference in utilization rates of disability support services? As we all know, the local government has a significant role in planning the policies for its city since they are needed the exact system for public services execution in the region. (Farida Nurani, Bambang Supriyono, Mardiyono Mardiyono, Andy Fefta Wijaya, Farida Nurani, 2019, P.1) So, looking from a framework of public policy analysis, it seems worthwhile to question what is Chicago doing to fulfill its role in disability support public policy implementation. To understand Seoul and Chicago a little better, let’s explore three features of Chicago.
The first distinguishing feature is a critical office called MOPD, which stands for The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. This type of department is operated by cities that join the Empowered Cities. Chicago makes extra efforts to promote economic opportunity and realize the equity for persons with disabilities by networking with cities— Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco—. They put more resources into the programs for the disabled by cooperating. More resources such as a fiscal element catalyze the increase of the service’s platform which leads to a rise of accessibility affecting the rates of utilization of programs.
The next feature is the way how Chicago reflects and evaluates the public services. After the execution of a program, they monitor and give incentives to people involved in a program to promote it. A great example of this is a WAV, which stands for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. The City of Chicago set up WAV about 20 years ago. After the initiation of this program, Chicago has been supporting taxi companies for transition and maintaining the service by giving financial subsidies. Furthermore, the City has been awarding the taxi driver who devoted him or herself to promote this system which is called Taxicab Driver Excellence Award. Its winner is given a free taxi medallion and financial support. According to the MOPD’s statement in 2019, they are going to continuously monitor the consequence of those incentives. Now, Chicago provides more than 400 WAV and this contributes to increase the availability of using the service by persons with disabilities.
The last feature is the endeavor of Chicago to foster persons with disabilities to be a leader. Chicago has been supporting ADA25 Chicago since 2016. The purpose of this project is to realize Disability justice by providing high-quality leadership programs to persons with disabilities. This will give a chance to the disabled to have a high position in society. Rachel Arfa who is the first deaf person commissioner of MOPD of Chicago and the highest-ranking person who impaired hearing to serve in a City government manifested she will develop more opportunities for persons with disabilities in many aspects using her direct experience as a disabled in 2020 statement. In this way, a leader with disabilities can induce more participation and give inspiration to the disabled into the world.
In short, having an empowered organization, implementing a policy constantly with attention, and putting an effort to encourage persons with disabilities to be community leader contributes to the improvement of people with disabilities’ life in Chicago.
To get rid of the discrimination in society, we cannot help avoiding the intervention of the government. Constant concern and effort are the only way to lead change of people’s perspective of difference. It is evident the City of Chicago has been trying to protect the right of people with disabilities in the diverse aspects I mentioned above, however, there are still big assignments that they have to solve. According to an article of ABC7 CHICAGO, last month, a boy with a wheelchair was prohibited from accessing Crown Fountain by a security officer in Millenium Park. He said that it could be a problem because a wheelchair is made up of an electric object, but a wheelchair is ok with water. From this issue, Chicago should give attention to broad people’s understanding of the disabled material. In the end, I want everyone to know this. The more people live happily, the better my life. Thank you for listen!
Seoul Solution, (last modified day Jan 2.2017). Introduction of Non-Step Bus, Retrieved Aug 27, 2021 from https://seoulsolution.kr/ko/node/659
Farida Nurani, Bambang Supriyono, Mardiyono Mardiyono, Andy Fefta Wijaya, Farida Nurani, (2019). Role of Local Government toward Policy Implementation Process to Reduce the IMRs and MMRs (Study in Jember district), Advances in Economics, Business and Management Research, volume 93. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2991/aicobpa-18.2019.22
Will Jones,(Jul 9, 2021). Boy in electric wheelchair not allowed to cool down in Crown Fountain, family says. ABC7 CHICAGO. Retrieved Aug 27, 2021 from https://abc7chicago.com/crown-fountain-millennium-park-chicago-weather-electric-wheelchair/10875611/
City of Chicago. (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 27, 2021, from https://www.chicago.gov/city/en.html
Empowered Cities. (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 27, 2021, from https://empoweredcities.com/
Karen Tamley Commissioner of Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. (2019). 2020 Budget Statement to the City Council Committee on the Budget and Government Operations. Retrieved Aug 27, 2021 from https://www.chicago.gov/city/en.html
Rachel Arfa, Commissioner of Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. (2020). 2021 Budget Statement to the City Council Committee on the Budget and Government Operations. Retrieved Aug 27, 2021 from https://www.chicago.gov/city/en.html
Karen Tamley Commissioner of Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. (2017). 2018 Budget Statement to the City Council Committee on the Budget and Government Operations. Retrieved Aug 27, 2021 from https://www.chicago.gov/city/en.html
Disability Lead. (n.d.) Retrieved Aug 27, 2021, from https://www.disabilitylead.org/
Retrieved Aug 27,2021 from https://www.rtachicago.org/rider-resources/reduced-fare/ride-free-permits
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