ABC13 town hall highlights inequalities facing Texans with disabilities

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Thursday, July 14, 2022
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Eyewitness News anchor Melanie Lawson is getting answers to your questions about issues facing Texans with disabilities.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- While one in every four Texans has a disability, this community faces obstacles to health care access, mobility and independent living that some take for granted.

Thursday, Eyewitness News anchor Melanie Lawson gathered experts for a town hall to examine issues facing Texans with disabilities, and how together we can address concerns for their well-being.

We all can play a role in supporting more inclusive communities and programs to help people with or at risk for disabilities stay healthy and active.

Panelists for the town hall included:

  • Angel Ponce, Houston Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities director
  • Chase Bearden, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities deputy executive director
  • Dennis Borel, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities executive director
  • Judy Blake, Family-to-Family Network training coordinator
  • Jolene Sanders-Foster, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
  • Talana Townsend, Visually Impaired Advocates president

According to CDC data, 5,435,500 Texas adults have a disability, impacting their mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, ability to live independently, or to care for themselves. That's 26% of our state's population.

Texans with disabilities are at greater risk for a variety of comorbidities, including 40% more likely to have depression, 42% more likely to have obesity, 18% more likely to have diabetes, and 10% more likely to have heart disease.

All the while, disabled Texans face a variety of disparities related to health care, education and even access to their right to vote.

The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities reports rising out-of-pocket health care costs for consumers have skyrocketed 111% since 2010, compared to a 19% rise in inflation. The group said this issue significantly impacts Texans with complex chronic conditions and rare diseases.

Meanwhile, youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities are three times more likely to experience trauma and abuse.

Compared to the state average of 5.4%, students in special education in Texas drop out at higher rates (8.2%) than nearly any other group, with the exception of English learners (12.9%), according to TEA data.

With the gubernatorial election approaching in November, disability rights advocates are now working to address the fallout from a new Texas law that limits assistance to voters with disabilities. Anyone found in violation of Senate Bill 1, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2021, could face criminal penalties.

You can watch the town hall exclusively on ABC13.com, ABC13's smartphone apps, and ABC13's connected TV apps on Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Google TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can also reach the LGBT Switchboard 24-Hour Helpline at 713-529-3211, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.