Kristina Majewski is the SLN Policy & Advocacy Committee Chair, and is an attorney working at the Department of Justice. In 2012, she was the AUCD Policy Fellow. She blogged on her experience at AUCD here. Check it out! Here, she shares how the Disability Policy Seminar has made an impact on her approach to advocacy.
Ensuring the Full Inclusion and Participation of Our Loved Ones in all Aspects of Community Life
April 7-9, 2014 will mark my 3rd year attending the Disability Policy Seminar, a national conference, held in DC, that celebrates legislative successes achieved through disability advocacy, as well as brings together policy leaders from around the country to engage in interactive and roundtable discussions on the future of disability rights. This event has become something I look forward to each year, because I know I’ll learn everything there is to know about the policies that affect individuals with disabilities (including our siblings) from incredible leaders – self-advocates, government partners, policy and advocacy wonks – in the field.
In the two years I have attended, there have been numerous and insightful sessions on key disability policies. Some highlights include: a trainee symposium with Congressional staffers, and the U.S. International Council on Disability, focusing on the power of advocacy and the importance of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; an interactive opening plenary on the “Power of the Vote” in which the panelists described four ways to connect with candidates – extend invitations to events, ask important questions, sponsor forums, and share ideas; an update from the White House’s Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, about the President’s commitment to disability rights; and, a session on the Department of Justice’s integration efforts around employment, community living, and the importance of quality assurance, led by former Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez.
In addition to these great sessions, one of the most rewarding events the Seminar has to offer is the sibling meet and greet breakfast hosted by the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) and The Arc. The breakfast is a time where siblings and advocates join together to tell their sibling’s story and learn from one another. This leads to discussions on how to educate our Congressional leaders around the need to continue developing and implementing policies that not only lead to positive change, and equal opportunity, for individuals with disabilities, but also acknowledge the role siblings play in advocating with their brothers and sisters, who experience real challenges on a daily basis, to advance such policies. Additionally, siblings share resources and encourage other siblings to get involved in policy development. The gathering reminds us all that “the leadership and active involvement of siblings is critical to ensuring the full inclusion and participation of [our] loved ones in all aspects of community life.”
Siblings and sibling supporters are encouraged to attend the Disability Policy Seminar! Hope to see you there!