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The Disability Policy Seminar 2024 Recap

Events, News, Policy

Another amazing experience was had by all who joined together April 8-10th in our nation’s capital for the annual Disability Policy Seminar (DPS). The event unites members of the disability community and their allies for two full days of advocacy training, followed by a Hill Day that supports participants in implementing their newly developed skills with members of congress and their aides.

The event was highlighted by the presence of amazing siblings and self-advocates, including an opening session that included Alison Barkoff, Principal Deputy Administrator of the ACL, and Rachel Patterson, Director of Disability Policy for the White House. Both Barkoff and Patterson are beloved members of our sibling community.

The event focused on key areas of policy reform including voting rights and access, social security, education, and community living. This year also marked another reauthorization year for the Autism CARES Act and included seminars that explored the intersection between the criminal legal system and disability. Information on the core areas of policy and advocacy addressed during the event are still available on their website here.

Presenters were candid and honest about the difficult climate in our 118th congress and the lack of bipartisan unity needed to accomplish the important work they were elected to perform. Michael Gamel-McCormick, Disability Policy Director for the Senate Special Committee on Aging and a member of Senator Casey’s team, and Katy Neas, Chief Executive Officer of the Arc of the United States, spoke about the importance of cooperation and finding key talking points that are important to us all. It is only through this cooperative mindset that we can make any progress.

Money, and how to get it, was an ominous presence throughout the three-day event. Many of the important issues discussed, such as ending marriage penalties and increasing wages for direct service providers, require additional funding. However, during Monday’s Q and A on How Congress and the Budget Work, and Why We Should Care, it was clear that this funding would not be coming (this year at least). In fact, to prevent the government from shutting down over budget disagreements, President Biden agreed to cap discretionary spending. This means that, to increase spending in any area, cuts must be made in other areas of the budget. Subsequently, the current congress has been called “historically unproductive” by Matt Glassman at the Government Affairs Institute and has resulted in the early retirement of establishment representatives, such as Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO). A recent explosive interaction (starting at 47:19) in the House Oversight Committee illustrates just how volatile the current culture of the 118th Congress has become.

One take away from DPS is that, while advocating for federal funding and reform is important, state level advocacy also beckons. States who pass legislation that positively impacts the disability community, such as paid Family Medical Leave and basic income pilot programs, have the potential to serve as models for future federal legislation. These regional and local programs allow advocates to gather data that can support efforts down the road. Our lived experiences and shared values were seen and heard throughout Washington D.C. this past April. Continue to share your stories, connect with your elected officials at all levels of government and policymaking, keep going. We are in this together.

Written by Tiffany Banks, PhD

Co-Chair of Policy and Advocacy

Attendee of the Disability Policy Seminar 2024


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