The policy staff at United Spinal Association is so passionate about June’s first-ever “Roll On Capitol Hill” that the in-house advocates are finishing each other’s sentences.
“We’re hoping to achieve a presence beyond us lobbyists here in D.C.,” says Joseph Isaacs, United Spinal’s vice president for public policy. “After all, legislators want to hear from their constituents — that’s critical …” says Alexandra Bennewith, director of government relations.
“… because that’s who elects and re-elects them — we don’t,” finishes Isaacs.
The Roll On Capitol Hill will bring leaders from the National Spinal Cord Injury Association chapters and support groups to Washington, D.C., to create an army of informed, educated advocates that can achieve the changes most sought after by the disability community.
Day one of the event will focus on trainings and seminars to equip members with the tools to speak to legislators and best impact public policy. On day two, members will have the opportunity to speak directly with legislators and their staffs on Capitol Hill about disability-related issues that concern them. An evening reception will round out the Roll On Capitol Hill with guest speakers to include key legislators.
Isaacs, who has been heading up United Spinal’s Washington, D.C., team since October 2010, explains the importance of introducing legislators to the real people and stories behind the legislation. “Legislators want to say, ‘Jim so-and-so, a wheelchair user in my district, came to me about how he could save money to support his housing, education and health fees without jeopardizing his other disability and health benefits,’” he says. “Then they can say, ‘I was proud to help pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act so he and others like him could put tax-advantaged money aside for his needs and not affect his other benefits.’”
The ABLE Act is one of the current bills that participants in Roll On Capitol Hill may learn about and advocate for in the two-day hands-on training about how to bring your energy and voice to seeking positive public policy for those with SCI/D, whether the subject is threats to Medicaid and Medicare or getting a fairer shake at obtaining employment.
To see if you can wrangle a place at the table, talk to your chapter president. Most transportation and lodging costs for the event will be underwritten by United Spinal for the first two registrants from each chapter or support group. The policy team at United Spinal hopes members who attend will take what they learn at the Washington, D.C., event and share it with others in their local chapters.
“This event is a step forward in galvanizing our own membership and giving them voice, to ensure the dream of the Americans with Disabilities Act is fulfilled, and that advocates are trained to help ensure basic needs such as health care, employment opportunities and transportation are met,” says Isaacs.
“Plus, members can use this event to network with friends and advocates from other states, to learn more about what they are doing that works,” says Bennewith. “All our members need to know what’s at stake and be empowered to do something about it,” she adds.
The Roll On Capitol Hill will take place from June 25-26 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. Again, it is open to those who are active in their local NSCIA chapter; if you would like to attend, please see your chapter president. For more information, visit www.unitedspinal.org/events/roll-on-capitol-hill.
United Spinal Association