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Colorado bills impact people with disabilities

With the run up to November elections and all the coverage of presidential primaries, you may have forgotten that the Colorado Legislature is in the midst of its yearly general session. Many decisions will be made over the next couple of months that could have significant impacts on Colorado residents.

There are already several bills being introduced that would impact Coloradans with disabilities.

Two of these bills deal with accessible transportation. House Bill 24-1165 would make the Denver International Airport more accessible to people in wheelchairs by improving equipment and training for staff.

A more complex bill is House Bill 24-1161, which improves motor vehicle access in a variety of different ways: creating standards for accessibility of electric vehicle charging stations, prohibits the blocking of accessible spaces, and requiring that ride share programs list vehicle modifications or the lack thereof.

House Bill 24-1067 is particularly timely, as it addresses ballot access for candidates with disabilities, ensuring that people with disabilities are not only able to participate in the political process but also have equal opportunity to serve in public office.

Across the hall in the Senate, some interesting things are happening as well. Senate Bill 24-153 would improve news access for people who have vision impairments. It authorizes the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado to expand its current literacy project to ensure that all Coloradans with disabilities have better access to print-based news.

Senate Bill 24-136 is particularly interesting. This bill recommends that Colorado adopt the Uniform Guardianship and Conservatorship and Other Protective Arrangements Act. This is a piece of legislation created by a group of lawyers, judges and subject matter experts to reform guardianship laws and ensure that courts are enacting the least restrictive means possible to protect people who need support with making decisions. The act promotes the consideration of a person’s preferences, values and strengths before stripping their civil rights through guardianship or conservatorship. UGCOPAA has already been adopted in some form in six other states and is currently being proposed in Alaska, Hawaii and Idaho.

Other bills being introduced seek to make it easier to make modifications in rental homes, ensure that tests for certifications and professional licensure have accommodations, and expand access to remote monitoring services for Medicaid recipients.

Although it may be weeks or even months before we learn the final destiny of these bills, it is an impressive array of thoughtful approaches to improving the lives of people with disabilities in Colorado. Yet, the very fact that these bills exist demonstrates how far we have to go before people with disabilities have equitable access to society.

What happens at the state Capitol matters, perhaps as much if not more than the presidential race. You can track bills as they make their way through the Legislature using one of many online tools. Consider making your voice heard by contacting our state Rep. Barbara McLachlan or state Sen. Cleve Simpson. Stay informed, get involved and vote!

Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.