CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office will announce an investigation Tuesday into the abuse of parking spots intended for the disabled.
Meantime, CBS 2’s Lauren Victory had more questions on Tuesday about a state program for the disabled that many don’t know about.
When Loretta Conroy had difficulty navigating the entrance of the Midlothian Secretary of State’s office, a lightbulb went off. Instead of coming to that office, could the state bring the services to people with disabilities?
She thought she had a great idea, but it turned out it already exists.
They’re called Mobile units. CBS 2 stopped by one that was set up at a Chicago alderman’s office recently
“It turns out they have this program that they don’t want anybody to know about,” Conroy said.
Those are strong accusations indeed. But we scoured the Secretary of State’s CyberDrive Illinois website and didn’t see the Mobile units listed anywhere. Basic Google searches came up empty too.
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We took our findings to the Secretary of State’s disability liaison, Bill Bogdan.
“All of the mobile units and the locations and the schedules are on our website,” he said.
That’s true, but only if you know actually to search the term “Mobile unit.”
Then Bogdan said: “We don’t do the actual advertising of the mobile unit. We allow the local area that we’re putting it in to put that through.”
Why wouldn’t the Secretary of State handle the advertising if the program supposed to be benefiting people?
Bogdan explained using an example: “If we go out to a nursing home and do a mobile unit there, it’s specifically for the residents of that nursing home. So necessarily we may not, we wouldn’t advertise that.”
But Conroy does not agree with the state’s marketing strategy of the taxpayer-funded program.
“Is it helpful if nobody knows about it?” she said.
And get this – we can’t tell you how much it costs, because the state told us they don’t track mobile unit expenses. How can that be if the service is offered more than 500 times a year?
Also, we asked, what about maintenance?
Finally, we learned fuel and repairs for the five vehicles that carry mobile unit equipment cost about $10,000 a year.
Bogdan showed us the careful attention paid to people with disabilities back at the non-mobile DMV – including eye test machines and signature pads that can be maneuvered so they can be at the height level of someone in a wheelchair, and lower accessible counters.
As for accommodating those looking online for the elusive mobile units, Bodgan said the Secretary of State’s office would go back and work on some of the Google searches.
A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office actually thanked CBS 2 for bringing the lack of information to his attention. He said details about accessibility and Bodgan’s contact information will be added to the state’s website in the coming days.
He also promised to work on increasing the visibility of the mobile units.
The CBS 2 Morning Insiders will follow up to make sure this all happens.