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People with Disabilities to Speak Out to Candidates

Oct. 5, 2004 – People with disabilities will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about issues that affect them at the 2004 Voices That Count conference, sponsored in part by the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Senatorial and delegate to Congress candidates have been invited to participate in forums to be held on St. Thomas and St. Croix, which are designed to bring about frank discussion between people with disabilities, support services and government officials, Wilbert Francis, center assistant director, said.
The St. Croix forums will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 18-19, at Gertrude's Restaurant.
The St. Thomas forums will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 21-22, at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel.
"We're helping people with disabilities to advocate for themselves," Francis said.
The first day of each forum will include a summary of progress made in the past year in areas like transportation, education, health/mental health and employment. Following the summary, participants will form focus groups and prepare questions to ask the political candidates.
The second day of each forum is a panel discussion with political candidates. A "report card" compiled by members of the disabled community, rating the government's services and noting progress the V.I. community has made to become compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, will be distributed, Francis said.
"If you don't advocate and tell your elected officials what you want, they can't be held accountable," Francis said.
Highlights of the event include a demonstration by the V.I. Election System and registration for Dial-A-Ride and Vitran Plus.
People with disabilities, the parents and family members of people with disabilities, advocates, health care providers and the general public are invited to the free forums.
To register or for more information about the St. Croix forums call Wanda Evans at 692-1919.
For the St. Thomas forums, call Francis, 693-1189.
Other forum sponsors include the V.I. Association for Independent Living, V.I. Advocacy, Lutheran Social Services, Work Able, V.I. FIND and Harvest.

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