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Motorcycle Accident Victim Reappointed to U.S. Commission on Human Rights State Committee

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The disabled will continue to have a strong voice on an important government agency responsible for advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters. Justin Pressley of Gainesville, Georgia has been reappointed to serve a second two-year term on the Georgia State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Pressley has been a quadriplegic since suffering a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident in the 1980’s. Pressley brings a firsthand perspective to issues of civil rights and the disabled, such as rights of access, employment and housing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One particular issue Pressley may want to address in his upcoming term is a concern about voting rights and persons with disabilities. Many states are pushing new laws to require voters at the polls to show a photo identification before casting their ballots, which could have a negative impact on disabled persons. For most people, showing a photo ID is as simple as getting out your driver’s license, but many disabled persons do not have driver’s licenses. Arranging transportation to the polls can be difficult enough; the added burden of obtaining a photo ID beforehand may keep many otherwise eligible voters from making the effort.

Every state and the District of Columbia has an Advisory Committee to provide input to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission itself is governed by an eight-member board, with four members each being appointed by the President and Congress, respectively. Currently, two of the seats reserved for presidential appointments are vacant. Of the six current members, three are from California, and two of those members – Michael Yaki and Roberta Achtenberg – hail from San Francisco. Mr. Yaki is an attorney, a former Chair of the San Francisco Transportation Authority, and a recipient of an award from the FDR Club for Persons with Disabilities. Ms. Achtenberg is a corporate advisor in public policy and a current member and former Chair of the Board of Trustees of California State University.

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