UC UCEDD, the University of Cincinnati University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, recently made the trip to Capitol Hill to take part in the Disability Policy Seminar 2015. The seminar is important because it gives a voice to those with disabilities, and allows advocates to educate members of Congress and their staff on the priorities of the disabilities community.
While there, the UC UCEDD team met with the staffers of Steve Chabot, U.S. Representative for Ohio’s First Congressional District, and Marcy Kaptur, U.S. Representative for Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District, to share their personal stories, experiences, and concerns around issues like the recently-signed-into-law ABLE Act.
The ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act will allow people with disabilities and their families to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for maintaining health and quality of life. Regulations are still being issued for the Act, and later this year each state will decide when and how to offer ABLE accounts. This is why itâ€™s important that representatives hear from disability advocates now.
Employment was another big topic UC UCEDD wanted to address with the representatives. â€œWe wanted to leave them with the message that employment for people with disabilities is possible and itâ€™s happening, but that we need their continued support, especially for young adults. We talked to them about preserving Medicaid and Social Security as potential support for people with disabilities who are graduating and transitioning to careers,â€ said Kara Ayers, UC UCEDD Advocacy and Dissemination Coordinator.
Kara was one of several attendees from Cincinnati. Also attending were Sara Bitter, CAC (UC UCEDDâ€™s Community Advisory Committee) Member and Parent-Advocate; Kay Brown, CAC Member and Parent-Advocate; Jane Gerhardt, LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities) Policy Specialist; Linda Kunick, CAC Member; Debbie Kunick, Sister and Advocate; Lindsay Mays, LEND Trainee;Â John Munnis,Â LEND Trainee, CAC Member and Self-Advocate; Â Brady Sellet, UC UCEDD Self-Advocacy Representative; Jen Smith, LEND Director; Heather Sturgill, CAC Member and Self-Advocate; Shruti Tewar, LEND Trainee; and Stephanie Weber, LEND Training Director.
On the last day of their trip, the team was able to witness the next step in the reauthorization of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education) Act. The Act, previously known as No Child Left Behind, is 50-years-old and in need of repair and update. The Act holds dear the idea that every child deserves a quality education, regardless of race, disability or language. Naturally, it holds significant implications for children with disabilities, and the team was there to see Congress working on it.
â€œThis trip was a great opportunity to see how the process works, and to see how we can start to create change,â€ said Brady Sellet.Â Brady is an expert on transportation issues for people with disabilities — a significant issue and employment barrier. In meetings with representativesâ€™ staffers, Brady was able to advocate for making public transportation in Cincinnati more accessible.
Speaking of transportation, the team had the opportunity to personally experience public transportation in DC. They had to be somewhat creative since their group was large and several people had wheelchairs, so they used UBER XLâ€™s vans and minivans to get around, and found the experience fast and convenient. Overall, the trip was an eye opening experience.
Thanks to the UC UCEDD team for attending the April 13-15 Disability Policy Seminar 2015, and for helping make visible the needs of people with disabilities.
UC UCEDD is a leader in working with, and on behalf of, children and adults with disabilities and their families, so they can lead the lives they want. This is accomplished through education, training, research, policy guidance, and information dissemination. Contact us with questions at 513-803-3627 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please take a moment to like us on Facebook.