Disability DIS-empowerment – still the norm

by on November 7, 2016

Now that almost all the election materials have been sent or posted, consider a retrospective on who has been —

and consistently still is — ignored and left out of recognition and responsiveness.

People with disabilities.

A recent slate card for one candidate had multiple pix of influential people endorsing that candidate.

Conspicuously absent were any advocates from amongst the disability communities.

Yet, disability-neglecting campaign material is not an isolated incident in SF politics.

Here are two separate political appointment scenarios of continued neglect of including people with disabilities in San Francisco government.

1] Consider ongoing political appointments — to San Francisco boards, commissions, and other public bodies.

In June, 2008, San Francisco voters passed Proposition D,  a policy measure authored by  Supervisor Jake McGoldrick.

The official ballot summary of the Ballot Simplification Committee read  that,  if enacted, Proposition D “…would made it official city policy that required that  the membership of City boards and commissions reflect the interests and contributions..” of people with disabilities

— amongst other constituencies also named.

That has been official city policy, for over EIGHT years.

Since June 2008, what outreach to disability groups and disability-serving agencies has there been by any Supervisors, the Mayor, or any other official who appoints people to a public body in San Francisco?

None comes to mind.

Look over the applications on file for vacancies to the many public bodies.

There is a dearth from advocates for people with disabilities [ p.w.d.s ]; many p.w.d.s who do apply are not leaders from the various disability-focussed agencies that either advocate for p.w.d.s. or who get contracts for the city for  services to p.w.d.s.

Think then of the importance of decisions by such as the Planning Commission, Building Inspection Commission, Port Commission, Environment Commission and even Housing Authority. Any disability  advocates amongst their members?    Any indication of positive outreach by the Supervisors

or the Mayor to get p.w.d.s to apply for appointment to these bodies?

2] Appointment to influential non-SF public bodies.

The best example here is the board of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway &  Transportation District.

San Francisco has nine seats,  four of which are Supervisors; the other five are members of the public — appointed by either the Supervisors [ four ] or the Mayor [ one].

Of the public members, there seems to be a pattern of appointing one strong bicycle advocate and one labor leader. Fair enough.

But continued neglect of p.w.d.s, who are disproportionately transit-intensive or transit-dependent seems a glaring oversight.

Especially when considering the cumbersome, back-of-the bus access to most GGBHTD busses and the continued lack of proper access to the GGBHTD ferries.

None of SF’s nine GGBHTD members have suggested action to correct this neglect.

Realize that one of the four SF Supervisors who are on the GGBHTD is also an MTC Commissioner ;

MTC does have specific outreach to / for p.w.d.s to apply for their Policy Advisory Council.

Somehow Proposition D and that MTC outreach seems not to have entered into the thinking of SF officialdom.

So even though officialdom is aware of people with disabilities, p.w.d.s are not included in power-sharing in SF government.

Maybe, with some new Supervisors and any other office-holder changes at City Hall, next year may usher in an inclusiveness of people with disabilities.

Bob Planthold


Bob Planthold

Bob Planthold writes columns on Disability Perspectives and is a longtime activist in San Francisco on senior and disabled issues.

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