DAVENPORT — Anastasia Somoza, a disabilities rights advocate who’s endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, Friday praised the former secretary of state and said more needs to be done to fully integrate all people into society.
Somoza, who mesmerized delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with a speech there in July, said even though laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act have helped to make it easier for people with disabilities to gain physical access to buildings, more work awaits.
“The ADA has been really successful in terms of increasing physical access, meaning the physical world. Buildings like this are physically accessible so people with disabilities are more visible,” Somoza told about a dozen people at Clinton’s Davenport campaign office. But she added, “It’s more than just this inclusion revolution we’re in the middle of. We need to continue to include, but we also need to find ways to engage people with disabilities. And that’s the piece that still needs to be worked on.”
Advocates for people with disabilities have pushed for greater advancements in employment, housing and education. Even with her education, Somoza, a graduate of Georgetown University and the London School of Economics, said she’s still had difficulty getting hired.
Somoza and her sister, Alba, were born prematurely and diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. Anastasia currently works for an organization in New York that helps people with disabilities and their families. She also is working with the Clinton Global Initiative to stop babies and children with disabilities from being abandoned in China.
Somoza first came to public attention in 1993 at the age of 9 when she took part in a White House event in which she tried to get help from President Bill Clinton to help her non-verbal sister get into a mainstream class in their New York school district.
Since then, Somoza said, she and the Clintons have stayed in touch. In September, she introduced Hillary Clinton at an event in Orlando, Fla., where Clinton gave an economic speech focusing on people with disabilities.
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Public opinion polls have said that both Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump are looked upon unfavorably by most Americans. But in remarks at the Davenport campaign office, Somoza called Clinton someone who “truly wants to make the world a better place.”
In addition to being in Davenport, Somoza was going to Iowa City, Ames and Des Moines on Friday.