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Disability advocate praises curbside voting, hopes more Iowans with disabilities will go vote

Garret Frey said his experience voting last Friday was "wonderful" and "very easy." He hopes voting curbside stays after the pandemic is gone.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Garret Frey is no stranger to advocacy, and this year is bringing out the best in him.

A co-author, inspirational speaker and an illustrator, he uses his platform to speak out on disability rights. 

Frey, 38, considers himself to be lucky, even with his disability. Just before he turned five, a motorcycle accident left Frey C4-C5 quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent. He spent almost a year in the hospital before going home. 

His mom, Charlene, has been by his side since the accident as his primary care-giver. 

"My mom was a great advocate and a person who fought for many of her beliefs," Frey said. She brought the fight for her son all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Court ruled in favor of Frey, determining that students with disabilities who require special care during the school day are entitled to that care at public expense. 

It wasn't until last fall when Frey decided to become more involved with politics. He's active in the Iowa Democratic Party Disability Caucus, where he tries to meet his goal of helping others like him. 

One of his initiatives is to get Iowans with disabilities to voice their vote, no matter what. 

"It's an important issue. It's our civil duty, civil responsibility," Frey said. 

Last Friday, Frey and his mom went to the polls to cast their ballots. Due to the coronavirus, his voting location allowed voters to vote curbside. 

"It was wonderful," Frey said about it. "Very easy." 

I decided that today was the day to get out and vote! Easy, convenient, accessible for all individuals with disabilities. Drive up curbside voting where they come out to help you. Need an form of ID and/or your Voters Registration ID Card and then all you have to do is fill out your ballot.

That's the one upside of the pandemic to Frey. 

"People had to think outside of the box. People had to create ways of actually helping out one another and coming up with solutions and proposing new ideas that we haven't had to do before," Frey said. 

Frey acknowledged that change can be hard for people.

"But, as a person who has a disability, you can always adapt to the change. And so, I know that with technology and different things that are happening right now that actually [helps] especially disabled [people]," he said.

As Frey urges those with disabilities to vote, he also urges others to learn more about disabilities and understand that a person with a disability is more than their disability. 

"Disabled people have a lot to offer," he said. 

"Some of us can work, some of us are willing to work, some of us are not in a position where we can work. But we're still members of society, and we have the same opportunities as everyone." 

Iowans with disabilities are encouraged to vote by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. There are accommodations made for those with a disability, such as voting via absentee or using an accessible voting machine. 

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