lawmakers, madison, wisconsin

Disabled Wisconsin Lawmaker State Rep. Jimmy Anderson Gets Snubbed by Legislature’s Leadership

Republican Assemblymen are playing hardball with Wisconsin State Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D), who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, over whether he should be allowed to call into committee meetings. Due to his caretakers’ schedules, it is easier to call into meetings rather than driving to the chambers.

The feud between Anderson and the Wisconsin Republicans started when Anderson requested to partake in meetings via phone call. This request bothered the Speaker of the House, Robin Vos.

“I think it’s disrespectful for someone to be asking questions over a microphone or a speakerphone when individuals are actually taking the time out of their day to come and testify in person,” Vos told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Vox went on to point out the Wisconsin government has gone out of their way to accommodate Anderson, most notably by providing him with a computer that has voice recognition software.

Anderson, who was paralyzed in a car accident that killed both of his parents, said he is considering taking legal action even though he is unsure of whether he would qualify as an employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even though he would rather be physically at the meetings, Anderson explained sometimes his health prevents him from traveling or he can’t find caretakers to take him to the meetings.

This is not the first time Anderson has raised concerns over proper accommodations. Earlier in 2019, he accused the Assembly leaders of not accommodating his needs by holding an overnight lame-duck legislative session to limit the power of Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

Anderson asked Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who has handed the issue to Attorney General Josh Kaul, to review.

The incident in question happened in January when the Assembly took recess after a long night. Mr. Anderson decided to go home to get out of his chair. The speaker of the house unexpectedly called a session at 4 a.m., not allowing Anderson ample time to return to the Capitol.

Employment lawyer Jeff Hynes thinks the Speaker of the House has placed a hefty legal bill on the citizens of Wisconsin. “In the typical workplace this would be a no-brainer,” Hynes said. “They would be foolish not to give serious consideration to this simple accommodation of this individual being able to participate by phone.”

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