Well. Some of you thought I had gone to sleep, and I’ll admit I’ve been quiet. All I can say is that life can sometimes turn your best-laid plans on their head, and that’s been part of my reality since my last blog post.
This week surely woke me up though, as I represented the D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, along with executive director Alison Whyte (https://ddc.dc.gov/biography/alison-whyte), at the 2018 national Disability Policy Seminar (http://disabilitypolicyseminar.org). Among others from D.C., we were joined by representatives from Project Action!, D.C.’s prominent self-advocates group, including co-president Thelma Green, pictured here with Alison at the conference:
As always, the DPS was an outstanding opportunity to celebrate the successes of the broader disability community over the past year – including heading off a wholesale rollback of the Affordable Care Act – and to catch up on the current state of proposed initiatives and legislation likely to affect people with disabilities over the coming year. The main purpose of the DPS each year is to prepare state delegations with the information they need to go up on the Hill and lobby their senators and representatives on Day 3. This focus always poses a bit of a challenge for those of us living in D.C. since we don’t have voting representation in Congress. Today, however, a group of us including Alison and myself, Thelma and another Project Action! self-advocate (who also happens to be my son!), along with Damian Miller from the Arc of D.C. and D.C. Advocacy Partner Caren Kirkland, went up to the Wilson Building to meet with councilmember Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1, chair of the human services committee) and with Jessica Giles from councilmember Grosso’s office to discuss issues which D.C. attendees at the DPS had identified as priorities. Topics we covered in particular included:
- creating viable and inclusive employment opportunities as stepping stones into D.C. government employment;
- addressing housing limitations including availability, affordability, and accessibility;
- improving and expanding alternatives to 911 for people with disabilities who are in crisis, and strengthening MPD awareness through more effective partnership with DDS; and
- expanding DDA waiver supports beyond intellectual disability, to include people with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Project Action! and other advocates have gone to the Wilson Building many times to speak with the council, but with the recent win in gaining passage of B22-0154 (the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2018), the way is now clear to developing a shared advocacy agenda for the next leap forward. We were also reminded today that it’s important to approach councilmembers who are not on the human services committee and who may need to hear from advocates in order to understand the impact of inclusion in the areas they oversee. So we’ll be targeting some different councilmembers on the next visit!