2023 Mayoral Forum

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Photo of seven members of the Mayor's Council on Disability Issues, four women and three men, dressed in various shades of blue shirts for disability awareness, standing in the large assembly room of the City County Building after the 2023 CODI Mayoral Forum

Front row, left to right: City of Knoxville ADA Coordinator Stephanie Brewer Cook, CODI Vice Chair Karen Lowe, member George Childress, CODI Universal Design Chair Joel Simmons. Back row, left to right: City CODI Liaison Misha Dziubak, CODI Secretary Nancy Welch, CODI Chair John Barber. 

Thank you for joining us at the 2023 CODI Mayoral Forum!

Mayoral candidates were hosted by the Mayor's Council on Disability Issues on Wednesday, August 2, 2023 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.

Certified American Sign Language Interpreters and CART Captioning provided effective communication for this forum.

Knoxville Community Media (KCM) video footage of the Mayoral Forum can be found at https://archive.org/details/codi-243-230802-mayoral-debate

Full transcript of the 2023 CODI Mayoral Forum

Mayoral and City Council candidates were given the option of also submitting written responses to the questions asked during the forum. Submitted responses are below:

2023 Mayoral Forum Candidate - Mayor Indya Kincannon
2023 Mayoral Forum Candidate - RC Lawhorn

2023 City Council Candidate - Matthew Best
2023 City Council Candidate - Tim Hill
2023 City Council Candidate - R Bentley Marlow
2023 City Council Candidate - Amelia Parker

Most people aren’t born with disabilities, but as we age, we tend to develop disabilities which can be temporary or permanent and can change over time. In fact, people with disabilities and seniors make up almost half of the population in the United States. The Americans with Disabilities act was signed into law in 1990 and has just reached its 33rd anniversary; yet there is still a long way to go to ensure accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities.

1. There are various types of disabilities including developmental, hearing, intellectual, invisible, mental health, mobility, physical, and visual disabilities amongst others. Active leadership by persons with disabilities is necessary to ensure that any decisions made are made with these voices being present to identify how those decisions may impact our community. Please describe your experience with individuals with disabilities. How will you engage with and increase the engagement of individuals with disabilities in key City leadership posts or advisory boards?

2. Knoxville’s Disability Services Office (DSO) serves over 300 residents and visitors with disabilities each year, and is comprised of one full-time, and one part-time employee. This office is responsible for providing information, addressing ADA complaints, guiding the City’s ADA compliance efforts and implementation of the ADA Transition Plan, providing City employee and constituent accommodation requests as well as reviewing procedures, programs and policies for compliance. CODI has long supported the expansion of this office in order to provide additional support and services to individuals with disabilities who live and visit Knoxville. With specific examples, how would you ensure that our City makes more headway in supporting persons with disabilities through an expansion of disability services?

3. The City of Knoxville has aging and outdated recreational facilities and park spaces that are included in a 2015 ADA study to identify what needs to be done to make these areas inclusive, and able to promote healthy lifestyles for people of all ages and abilities. While the City has renovated a number of facilities, more funding is needed to complete the renovations to the remaining facilities from the study and ADA Transition Plan. What is your plan to ensure that accessibility and ADA compliance is a known requirement when it comes to providing internal and external resources and funding for these projects?

4. Part of a robust age-friendly plan is having adequate and affordable housing where older adults can age in place. To quote AARP, “affordability is only affordable if it is also accessible.”  For many older adults, the cost of living in Knoxville is an extreme burden, with senior homelessness on the rise and support networks diminishing because of the costs to live in the City. Knoxville's lack of accessible and affordable housing and a rapidly aging population compounds the problem. This can force individuals to live in institutional settings vs. independent living within their communities. As Mayor, how will you increase the percentage of accessible and affordable housing units in proximity to community gathering spaces and health services that is necessary to address this systemic issue?

5. Transportation is more than simply vehicles or busses and includes infrastructure such as sidewalks, curb ramps, and pedestrian signals. Accessible options are a critical concern for thousands of individuals with disabilities and those aging in the Knoxville area. These options should be safe, affordable, dependable, and user-friendly. What is your vision for the future of accessible transportation in Knoxville?