The next senator from Illinois will use a wheelchair

WheelchairThe presidential election and events like yesterday’s primaries get so much attention that some of the more interesting state and local races seem to be somewhat overlooked. The Senatorial race here in Illinois is a good example. Whatever the outcome, the next senator from Illinois will use a wheelchair.

Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Tammy Duckworth served in Iraq and lost both legs when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter she was co-piloting in 2004. Her Republican rival, incumbent Senator Mark S. Kirk suffered a stroke in 2012. He had to re-learn how to walk again after the stroke, and he, too, often uses a wheelchair.

An article in the Chicago  last week pointed out that running a Senate campaign involves lots of travel and complicated logistics, and for both candidates, that requires extra planning. From the article:

Duckworth said she and her staff have a pre-event checklist to make sure the site is up to their standards — and that means making sure even the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible.

“I don’t go to any place that isn’t accessible even though I have artificial legs that I can walk in; it’s on principle,” she said. “If someone in a wheelchair can’t get in it, I’m not going to do an event there because just because I can get in there doesn’t mean somebody else can.”

Kirk said it definitely takes longer to prepare, especially when traveling. “You always have to do really proper advance and make sure if there’s a stage [that] the railing is secure,” said his campaign manager, Kevin Artl. “You have to allocate time to arrive.”

The article said both candidates have heard from voters who question their ability to serve. “With a stroke, they wonder how much of you is ‘there,’” Kirk said. “With me, I’m all there.”

Duckworth said the question about using a wheelchair in public during the campaign came up when she first ran for Congress. “I’m not ashamed I’m in a wheelchair. I earned this wheelchair,” she said. “I’ve always insisted it’s not something that we hide.”


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