I recently attended the 2017 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington DC. It was a great experience. I learned a lot about disability policy and policymaking in general. Given that it was the week of the American Healthcare Act almost vote, I learned a lot about this bill and in particular the devastating effects that Medicaid cuts would have on the disability community. In essence, Medicaid is necessary for home support services that allow people with disabilities to live independently and work in the community. Without Medicaid services, more people with disabilities would be forced into institutions. This is both more expensive and less desirable than community supports. Needless to say, I was very happy when the bill died.
The final day of the seminar was Hill Visits. We met with Representative Davis as well as staff for both of the Illinois senators. This was my first time visiting the Hill, and it was a great experience. I got to practice my “two minute elevator speech.” The visit also made me feel like my voice and opinion mattered.
The seminar was also an opportunity for me to travel with people who are wheelchair users. This was an eye-opening experience for me. For instance, I am not used to checking every restaurant to make sure that it is wheelchair accessible. The biggest accessibility challenge came when it was time to go to the airport to return to Chicago. I was splitting a cab with Michael, who is a wheelchair user. While there were multiple cabs lined up at our location, none were wheelchair accessible. We called multiple cab companies, but the cabs kept not showing. It took us an hour to get a cab to take us to the airport. I do not typically give myself an extra hour to coordinate getting a cab to the airport. Fortunately, we made our flights.
On multiple levels, the Disability Policy Seminar was a great experience. I am so glad that LEND gave me the opportunity to attend.