I attended the 2016 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. The three-day conference, April 10 to 13, provided useful information on policies, and their impact on the disability community. I had the opportunity to meet with other LEND trainees, self-advocates, and family advocates, and it was inspiring to listen to individuals strongly advocate against inequality. The sessions I attended helped me understand the policies towards federal funding for disability programs, as well as how to have a successful Hill visit.

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Tanya Auguste with fellow LEND trainees in formation before entering Senator Dick Durbin’s office.
Photo Credit: Sarah Agamah

On the final day, the IL LEND trainees headed to the Hill to meet with staffers from the offices of Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. As a group, we were enthused to discuss our concerns with several policies that affect individuals and families with disabilities. It was fulfilling to see the staffers be genuinely interested in our concerns. They also provided suggestions to gain further support and sponsorships. I personally shared with the staffers my experience in LEND and my issues with the limited access to autism treatments for families with public insurance. Of note, a few of us were able to formally meet Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky!

Talking with Tia Nelis, a self-advocate specialist, was another special moment for me. Over Thai food, she shared with me how to develop skills that will assist me in becoming an effective leader in the disability community. In short, it requires practice, passion, and perseverance to “get in formation.”

Overall, I enjoyed the Disability Policy Seminar, and I hope to use these experiences to enhance my current and career endeavors.

A special thank you to IL LEND. This experience would not have been possible without the travel grant. Thank you.