UW-W senior Adam Brabender is using his life experience and knowledge to create a new caucus for the state of Wisconsin, the Disability Caucus.
This caucus was created at the state Democratic convention on June 21 in Milwaukee. It is similar to the LGBTQ Caucus and Women’s Caucus in that it advocates for people with disabilities at the state and party level, and attempts to encourage those with disabilities to run for public office.
“It’s brand new [to Wisconsin],” Brabender said. “Wisconsin has never had a Disability Caucus. There’s about 18-20 other states that have it.”
Brabender realized this was something that Wisconsin needed when he became the co-chair of the executive committee for the caucus. His passion for advocacy led him to see the need for Wisconsin to establish this caucus.
“I had to get 50 signatures and create the bylaws [to get it in effect],” he said. “Terry Friedrichs, the vice chair of the Disability Caucus in Minnesota, asked me in June of 2018 about starting it here, because he knew I was interested in it. We worked on the bylaws, a [general] survey and the constitution.”
Brabender’s experience planning the caucus was something that he had been wanting to do for a while.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I’d been advocating for it for a long time. We have about 90 members, plus five members who are part of the executive board team, and we will be choosing another co-chair soon.”
Outside of Brabender’s co-chair position, he has a cabinet comprised of a vice chair, secretary, treasurer and diversity officer.
Brabender saw the need for people with disabilities to get involved in politics and to become familiar with their government(s).
“It’s to get more people involved in the political process, who have visible and invisible disabilities,” he said. “For example, accessibility [issues], advocacy and legislation processes. Right now, it’s very hard for people who have disabilities to vote.”
Brabender hopes that this caucus will get more people with disabilities to pay attention to what’s happening in government, and potentially get involved.
“I’d like to see more people run for office eventually,” he said. “We only have one state representative who is disabled, Jimmy Anderson.”
As a UW-W student, Brabender was a senator for Whitewater Student Government (WSG), where he advocated for students with disabilities. Having a disability himself, being an advocate for others is something he holds close to his heart.
“Ever since I was diagnosed with autism, I have been getting help from social workers and people like that, and now I want to give back to people with disabilities,” he said. “I want more of a level playing field.”
If you would like to become involved with the Disability Caucus, visit the Democratic Party of Wisconsin website, where Brabender says you can find his contact information to ask him how you can become involved.