My family and I were honored to be invited to attend United Spinal’s 2013 Roll on Capitol Hill and speak to legislators on the issues affecting people living with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities.
On Sunday, June 14th we arrived in Washington, D.C. and registered into our hotel room. Our first meeting was to get pumped up for the next few days of advocacy work and meet George Gallego from NSCIA-NY chapter who gave a few opening remarks. George is a great speaker and one of many of my new friends.
Monday started early with a great buffet breakfast and right to work learning about issues that affect thousands of wheelchair users around our country. You can learn more about these issues on United Spinal’s website.
Tuesday, I woke up excited to attend my appointments with our legislators and to meet Senator John McCain later that evening. McCain was accepting the VetsFirst Congressional Bronze Star Award during an evening reception for his efforts to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Unfortunately, that was not to happen. Ever hear the saying, “break a leg”? I have and I did as I was transferring from my bed to a chair that morning at the hotel. The good news is that many members and advocates who did attend ROCH 2013 did have the opportunity to meet with legislators and senator McCain. And from the feedback I’m still receiving, our voices are are being heard!
Well, to make a long story short I spent the next 7 days at George Washington University Hospital. I took this as an opportunity to share with the hospital staff on why I was in D.C. and found myself educating some of their staff about my 30 years living with a spinal cord injury, the needs I had as a patient and what follow up was going to be like when I got home.
I guess I’ll always be educating others not only on my medical needs but how we as a country could assist individuals with an SCI/D and other disabilities on their medical needs. That’s the bottom line on what I wanted to tell our politicians on Capitol Hill. We can all do this by simply knowing and contacting our local legislators and asking them to cosponsor and support these bills.
One of our goals here in Central Florida as the NSCIA-CFL chapter is to assist with short- and long-term goals in educating and creating the resources, and supporting the SCI/D individual, their families and their caregiver and finally to meet with community politicians, developers, companies and education facilities and to partner up and provide events and activities around the entire central Florida as a sign of unity in our community.
Hector Del Valle, MSW