Our City. Our Future. Our Choice.

Disability Justice

Making the City of Portland universally accessible for people with disabilities


As with all of Sarah Iannarone’s policies, this policy was developed in consultation with impacted communities. In this specific policy, activists with disabilities were consulted and compensated for their work to develop a policy that reflects the needs of the disability community, the values of Sarah’s campaign for Portland mayor, and her commitments to the community once elected. We are grateful to the activists who took the time to craft this policy, and the quality of their work speaks for itself.

Unlike many of Sarah’s previous policies, this document is written from the point of view of those who developed it. In short, this is a policy written by and for members of the disability community, and Sarah Iannarone has adopted it in full. Sarah fully believes that those communities most impacted by an issue are the ones most qualified to lead on addressing it. Thus, all her policies are crafted in prolonged and deliberate consultation with frontline communities - these are the people behind the Plan for Progress. Our neighbors impacted by recent failed leadership and historic injustice should always be consulted, heard, and given opportunity to lead for themselves. While no community is a monolith, and no group of people speaks for an entire segment of society, it is clear that those impacted by specific experiences and who have lived experience to rely on as a guiding principle are those best equipped to advise on such issues.

In that light, Sarah Iannarone uplifts this policy following the work of people with disabilities to craft it. By no means is this an exhaustive list, nor does it absolve Sarah, or the city, of any future work. Rather, it signals her commitment to make Portland, our city government, more accessible as a means of advancing civil and human rights.


It seemed equality for those with disabilities was right around the corner when the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. Some speculation suggested the next civil rights movement would be led by and for people with disabilities. Thus, we would no longer face the lifelong segregation caused by an inaccessible society.

Racial equity is the foundation of the disability justice movement. As Audre Lorde said, “we do not lead single issue lives,” and those at the intersection of multiple identities are the ones who suffer the most. Thousands of years of eugenics bolstered by capitalism have forced people with disabilities and our accomplices to collaborate for the liberation of our people. This movement for equality, acknowledging intersectionality, has grown significantly in recent years and is still developing.

As the intersectionality of the disability justice movement expands to include all those impacted by health concerns, those advocating for universal healthcare and their family members, friends, loved ones, care workers, and medical providers that surround us, the possibility of successful and tangible progress of this civil rights movement begins to seem real for the first time. As we build a mass movement, we must find ways to make electoral politics work for the benefit of us. We demand leaders committed to us and to the changes we need to obtain the human rights we deserve.

Lack of knowledge about our community and the lack of will to meet our needs have created an atmosphere of pervasive discrimination in employment, basic services like housing and healthcare, and government services. We have been denied the ability to participate in public life and our opinions are often absent from community conversations. We need change now.

We must have frank discussions about the future of Portland. We must empower communities of color, poor and low-income people, elders, people with disabilities, the sick and oppressed. To the best of our knowledge, no city on earth has successfully determined how to cultivate a welcoming, equitable, and universally accessible society.

This platform focuses on local solutions with a specific emphasis on access, housing and leadership as we seek the end of forced institutionalization in Portland and beyond. We acknowledge only so much can be done without state and federal systemic changes. Portland has the opportunity to write the playbook and show the world how to truly honor the human rights of the oppressed.

There is so much to do and this document is just a fraction of what we as a movement hope to accomplish. Further, we do not speak for all advocates and are simply doing our best to develop a platform that can move us towards real justice. In addition to an aspirational list of long term goals, we developed this platform with a focus on:

  1. Making the City of Portland government universally accessible for all so we have a chance to be engaged.
  2. Housing rights which are not covered by the ADA.
  3. Promoting leadership of people with disabilities so we lead for ourselves.

We need leaders that will push our agenda in Portland and at the state and federal levels. Sarah Iannarone has committed to keeping people with disabilities involved following her election and throughout her term. She fully understands why we say ‘nothing about us without us,’ and how this slogan encapsulates the spirit of our communities. The following quote comes to mind as we embark upon this policy and Sarah’s commitment to seeing it through:

“You wanna know how you'll know if you're doing disability justice? You'll know you're doing it because people will show up late, someone will vomit, someone will have a panic attack, and nothing will happen on time because the ramp is broken on the supposedly "accessible" building. You won't meet your benchmarks on time, or ever. We won't be grateful to be included; we will want to set the agenda. And what our leadership looks like may include long sick or crazy leaves, being nuts in public, or needing to empty an ostomy bag and being on Vicodin at work. It is slow. It's people even the most social justice-minded abled folks stare at or get freaked out by. It looks like what many mainstream abled people have been taught to think of as failure.”

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, p. 124

  1. Provide access to all City services
    1. End police discrimination of the disabled community by expanding Portland Street Response and increasing police accountability. The Portland Police Bureau keeps statistics proving people with disabilities are disproportionately victims of excessive force. This must end.
    2. Fully enforce the provisions of the ADA Title II Transition Plan Update of 2014. This plan includes simple improvements to enable people experiencing mobility impairments to visit a park or recreation center, City Hall, and access other services. Updates shall include mandatory training of all City staff, and plans and evacuation equipment for people with limited mobility to leave buildings quickly in case of emergencies or elevator malfunctions in City of Portland buildings.
    3. Improve community awareness of the presence of Blind and DeafBlind people. The City should make it easier for Blind and DeafBlind community members to request signs on crosswalks indicating that a Blind or DeafBlind person lives nearby.
    4. Improve communication access. Always provide ASL interpretation, language support services, and image descriptions for all City videos and on-line resources. Also, always provide accessible versions of content shared at public meetings.
    5. Provide emergency communication support for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind community members. This is essential as many community members will otherwise have no access to important and sometimes life saving information.
    6. The City should collaborate with staff and public representatives to create a unified accessibility handbook which can be distributed electronically and in hard copy. The handbook should include nuanced enforcement mechanics which specify resource persons to assist members of the public to file and obtain resolution of complaints regarding disability access concerns.
    7. Resources shall be allocated to fund additional proactive accessibility measures, including ASL Interpreters, captioning, and spoken language translation happening without the need for an individual request. Currently, community groups, activists, candidates for office, and everyday Portlanders are doing a better job providing accessibility than the City of Portland. This is unacceptable. The City should not only set the standard, but also fund such standards within other community efforts.
    8. Commissioners should demonstrate to Portland’s disability communities that they have the capacity to effectively service and engage people with disabilities in all policy and administrative areas. This requires effective and substantial communication, listening, and restorative justice for the harm already done.
    9. All Human Resources business partners should be trained on cultural competence and disability, accessibility, and disability as a diversity value, as well as basic access issues such as alt text and image descriptions.
    10. The City should conduct targeted hiring of people with lived experiences of disability.
      1. Audit existing Bureau diversity plans to ensure that disability is included as a diversity value. Oftentimes, disabilities are unseen. While we as a city work to prioritize diversity, we should also consider disabilities as one of the diverse categories we wish to prioritize.
      2. Ensure that equity training for City employees covers the rights of people experiencing disability, including basic principles of disability justice. While equity training is essential for many reasons, such trainings should not ignore those with disabilities.
      3. Develop goals for representation of persons with disabilities at all levels of city government, including awarded contracts, grants, partnerships and employment.
      4. Foster employee resource groups which include people experiencing disabilities.
      5. Overturn the “shelter in place” procedures for employees with mobility concerns. We must provide these people adequate equipment to evacuate along with able-bodied coworkers and work with the Bureau of Emergency Services and Portland Fire & Rescue to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are considered in planning for fire, floods, and other emergencies.
      6. Follow best practices rather than legal minimums regarding accommodations and access for employees with disabilities in employment.
      7. As the nature of the work allows, permit all employees with and without disabilities to continue working remotely, while providing access to meetings via teleconference, etc. post-COVID-19. Requiring work in a physical office space is a privilege and ignores the difficulties many with disabilities have in comparison to others in physically getting to work. If work can be done remotely, it should be allowed to be done as such for safety and equity purposes. Staff should be provided with resources such as municipal broadband, proper lighting, and technological equipment to ensure this is adequate.
  2. Make accessible and affordable housing abundant The City of Boston, MA has made key commitments to better serve people with disabilities regarding housing. We have drawn on some of those solutions in the following:
    1. Increase the number of affordable units for disabled households from five to ten percent in new or remodeled City-funded elevator buildings with a new set aside policy.
    2. Modify the Inclusionary Housing policy to require that in buildings already creating accessible units, 15 percent of the income-restricted units also be accessible.
    3. Create a loan fund to assist families developing Accessory Dwelling Units for use by a disabled family member. Sarah Iannarone’s proposed municipal bank can be a mechanism for such a fund.
    4. Partner to make low-interest loans to aid homeowners in making accessibility improvements to their homes for themselves or their tenants.
    5. Fund the Rental Registration system and collect data to create an online accessible housing portal that captures all housing opportunities for persons with disabilities in one place that is easy for people to access and navigate.
    6. Assist nonprofit developer partners in applying for Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities loans from HUD. These loans offer rental subsidies to nonprofit developers of affordable rental housing with supportive services, which will help to defray the cost of constructing new accessible housing.
    7. Affirm a local commitment to the proactive enforcement of the ADA, then design and train a robust program for building inspectors to recognize ADA and Fair Housing violations in housing plus a program to share violations with either BOLI or the Oregon Fair Housing Council.
    8. Establish an Access Compliance Unit to advise city departments on how to ensure building compliance, examine building permits for compliance, and advise architects and developers for a fee.
    9. Reallocate fines to impacted communities. When buildings are in violation of accessibility standards and fees are collected, the revenue shall be reallocated to people with disabilities living in rental units, particularly those who need accessibility features installed.
    10. Distribute mandatory evacuation equipment and strategies for getting people with limited mobility evacuated when there is an emergency in all housing with stairs.
    11. Expand case management offerings for people with disabilities who are at high risk of homelessness by matching them with caseworkers who can assist them in finding suitable housing.
  3. Promote leadership of the disability community
    1. Establish an office under the Mayor for People with Disabilities. This office would be responsible for coordinating all disability, accessibility, and equity efforts across the City; including training, enforcement of ADA Standards, receiving and responding to complaints, and acting as one of many liaisons between the City and disability communities.
    2. Respect the City’s previous commitments to lead with race and disability. Every bureau must develop disability equity goals, maintain a strong lens of intersectionality, and uplift BIPOC disabled communities.
    3. Convene a Citywide process engaging disability communities in developing a collective vision for how people with disabilities engage with and receive services from the City. This process must result in actionable goals, and tangible deadlines for completion of such goals.
    4. Create a City Leadership level position to work with commissioners and bureau directors to integrate accessibility and accountability to disabled Portlanders in every aspect of City operations and business.
    5. City Commissioners and Auditor must evaluate the current processes to campaign for City office and propose reforms to increase accessibility and equity for all communities underrepresented in City governance.
    6. Designate a person experiencing disability to advocate on behalf of the City with other governmental entities to do the following:
      1. Desegregate Portland Public Schools for children with disabilities.
      2. Expand access to care workers so that anyone in need is able to receive the support they need regardless of their status with the Social Security Administration.
      3. End the sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
      4. Create and invest in feasible opportunities for people to leave carceral institutions like nursing homes, group homes, foster care facilities and homes for people with mental health concerns.
      5. Include people with disabilities in the fight for climate justice by framing the work to address corporate pollution instead of prioritizing accessibility equipment like drinking straws.
      6. Conduct an analysis of the health impacts of climate change on low-income communities, communities of color, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.
      7. Provide “clean air shelters” within Community Hubs for people experiencing breathing issues due to wildfire smoke and potential chemical weapons deployment.
      8. Enforce ticketing of vehicles in wheelchair accessible parking spaces or the sectioned off aisles next to them for ramp deployment.
      9. Educate healthcare providers, wheelchair repair businesses and similar institutions regarding methods and equipment necessary to assist people with disabilities to transfer from wheelchairs for exams, procedures, or other treatment.
      10. Require first responders to transport mobility devices when a person with disabilities is taken into custody, to the hospital, etc.
      11. Promote stronger public health standards for those living in, working at or visiting residential facilities, long term care facilities and the like, regarding public health threats like COVID-19:
      12. Establish priority testing procedures.
      13. Establish enforcement mechanics and fines for inappropriate use of PPE that puts themselves or others at risk of communicable diseases.
    7. Support amendments to applicable state, federal and international laws to do the following:
      1. Expand Medicaid to cover all Oregonians, including the undocumented, from birth, including but not limited to ending all out of pocket costs, (insurance premiums, copay, deductibles, etc.) for any type of medical treatment, including mental health and ‘alternative treatments’ and any other monetary disincentives to care, including but not limited to prescriptions, medical equipment, imaging, procedures, and the like.
      2. Endorse state legislation to improve current human rights laws.
      3. Create a universally accessible registration system with a robust search engine to find and hire care workers licensed by the Department of Human Services - Aging and Disability Services.
      4. Improve and expand upon the employee rights of care workers.
      5. Add housing rights to the American’s with Disabilities Act, including but not limited to ending all penalties and move out requirements within Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for people with disabilities receiving a higher education.
      6. End divisions between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those with acquired disabilities.
      7. End all post-mortem seizures of monetary resources and allow people with disabilities to save using the federal program Achieving a Better Life Experience Act.
      8. Decriminalize the possession of life saving medicines.
      9. Research and advocate for necessary reforms to Federal laws, including but not limited to the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Developmental Disability Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act, Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Disability Integration Act, Higher Education Act, Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA), SECTION 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Perkin's V Act, Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, Capability Act of 2019, Raise the Wage Act of 2019, and new regulations pertaining to the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waivers.
      10. Profoundly reform Social Security Administration regulations, including but not limited to;
      11. End the 18 month wait period to begin receiving medical care through Medicare after an individual wins their Social Security Administration case.
      12. End income penalties for employed people with disabilities and early retirement.
      13. Remove existing marriage penalties which chill the rights of people with disabilities to get married.
      14. End all post-mortem seizures of assets currently used to recover Medicare related expenses.
    8. Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the United States.