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Voters with disabilities hear from candidates

Disabled voters and advocates for people with disabilities heard from legislative candidates about issues important to them such as education, housing, medical marijuana and support services during a forum in Columbia on Thursday.

Democratic candidates Maren Bell Jones, 44th House District; Rep. Kip Kendrick, 45th House District; Martha Stevens, 46th House District and Michela Skelton, 50th House District; and Republican candidates Cheri Toalson Reisch, 44th District; Cathy Richards, 46th District; and Chuck Basye, 47th District, attended the forum.

VIDEO: Get the candidates’ views by watching the full forum video

Transportation, employment and health care were at the top of several disabled voters’ issue list.

Columbia resident Brittany Berry, a licensed social worker, said she’s looking for a job, but her number one issue is transportation.

Berry said paratransit has not been reliable. She worries that if she gets a job, she won’t be able to travel to see clients.

“I would have to pay for someone to take me, and I just don’t have the income for that,” Berry said.

Most of the state House candidates said better transportation is needed.

Berry said if she gets a full-time job, she is worried she will lose her government benefits.

“I’ll lose my Medicaid benefits,” Berry said.

Columbia Disability Commission Chairman Chuck Graham said this is why the majority of people with disabilities do not work.

“Unlocking that is really key, so people can get a job and be more prosperous and not be dependent on government programs,” Graham said.

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