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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Disabilities Commission is hosting a forum Tuesday with Missouri Senate and House candidates.

The commission is teaming up with other disability-related organizations to educate the public and the candidates on issues important to the disability community.

"Forums like this are a means of raising awareness among candidates of a substantial segment of their potential constituencies - people with disabilities - and matters of importance to them. They also provide people with disabilities an opportunity to learn about candidates and make better informed decisions at the polls," said Mark Satterwhite, Director of Life & Work Connections at Boone County Family Resources.

The disability issues forums began in 1995, and Boone County Family Resources has been a hosting partner for over 15 years. Other organizations co-hosting the forum include the Great Plains ADA Center, Easterseals Midwest, People First of Boone County and more.

Forum moderator and Great Plains ADA Center Director Chuck Graham said one of the priorities of the forum is to help better educate candidates.

"We want them to learn more about the services that are provided to people with disabilities, more about the needs of the disability community, and the things that we're interested in. So win or lose, we hope the candidates educate themselves and if they win, we certainly hope they'll stick to their commitments that they make when they make those before members of the community," Graham said. 

Cheri Reisch and Tom Pauley from district 44, Kip Kendrick and William Lee from district 45, Martha Stevens from district 46, Susan McClintic and Chuck Basye from district 47 and Stephen Webber from district 19 will all attend the forum. Caleb Rowden from district 19 is listed as a "maybe" due to his schedule.

Graham said the commission and the hosting organizations discuss issues they want to bring up in the forum beforehand.

"I know a lot of people are very concerned about Medicaid expansion. They're worried about disability rights issues that the state legislature will be taking a look at, and a number of other programs that the state funds that assists people with disabilities to be independent in our communities," Graham said. 

Satterwhite said there's a simple message to the candidates and the community.

"People with disabilities want to be included in community life and work, and when they are, the community is better for it," Satterwhite said.

The forum is Tuesday at 11 a.m. 

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