Newsletter, August 2013
Greetings from Disability Rights & Resources! Our August newsletter is full of exciting updates and information about upcoming events– check out photos from our latest ramp build, get the facts on S. 1356 and hear what staff had to say about attending the 2013 NCIL Conference in Washington, D.C.! You can also visit us on our website, Facebook and Twitter.
Disability Rights & Resources Attends 2013 NCIL Conference
For the week of July 22-27, several Disability Rights & Resources staff traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2013 Annual Conference on Independent Living. The theme of this year’s conference was “Re:Generation,” a celebration of “new leadership, new ideas, and fresh growth.” The week consisted of numerous panels and workshops, Capitol Hill visits, regional caucuses, exhibit fairs, and a march to the US Capitol, where passionate speeches from Independent Living leaders opened the official 2013 NCIL Rally at the Capitol.
Disability Rights & Resources staff who attended were Gwen Brown, Vickie Stovall, Josh Whitmire, Montgomery Center for Independent Living Director Kent Crenshaw, and veteran NCIL member and former NCIL president Dan Kessler. First-time conference goer Vickie Stovall was especially impressed with how much there was to learn. She cited the ongoing debate over the CRPD treaty as a “lightbulb moment,” where she observed firsthand the importance of staying informed and being actively engaged in legislative discussion. Returning attendee Josh Whitmire was equally impressed with the variety of topics and opportunities, but this year he chose to focus on youth and transition issues, specifically employment, peer support and mental health. The march to the Capitol was another highlight for Josh: “It’s always fun to see different advocates and consumers coming together to rally for the services they need.” Some of Gwen’s favorite workshops were “Systems Advocacy at Work,” “ADRCs: The No Wrong Door Network” and “Disability Disclosure & Inquiries: Can’t Ask, Afraid to Tell.” She also stressed that she felt it was crucial to take the motivation and energy from the conference and get right back to work here in Alabama, saying “We need to mentor consumers to prepare for legislative visits. It’s important for us to ask everyday ‘What am I bringing to this world?’”
Other highlights from the 2013 NCIL Conference included U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth’s speech, a powerful and candid account of living with a disability and what that has come to mean for her over the years. After she was shot down while piloting a helicopter in Afghanistan in 2003, Ms. Duckworth’s outlook on disability issues changed drastically, and she realized that leadership is not about a title—it’s about the willingness to step up. Tammy Duckworth is the first ever woman with a disability to be elected into Congress, and she recently pledged not to attend any event in D.C. unless it is fully accessible.
Finally, in keeping with the “Re:Generation” theme, the National Council on Independent Living elected a new President, Lou Anne Kibbee, and several new board members. It was also announced that proposed Senate Bill 1356 would establish an Independent Living Administration, which would have an official “ILA Director” and would dramatically elevate Independent Living in the federal system. Independent Living is currently authorized under the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) in the Department of Education. However, S. 1356 would move Independent Living into the Department of Health and Human Services under the Administration for Community Living (ACL). For more information, click here or see below!
New Volunteer Home Modification Program Leads Ramp Build in Shelby County
Disability Rights & Resources recently partnered with students from UAB and the Jefferson State Community College Construction and Building Science Department to build a ramp for a consumer in Montevallo. On July 26th and 27th, Rudy Jones, Patrick Greenwood and Ryan McCoy used their classroom skills to design and build a ramp that would allow the homeowner to safely enter and exit her home. Construction Science Instructor Micah Kaufhold led the crew, and he plans to continue the partnership for future ramp projects in order to give students more hands-on experience and inspire them to engage in community outreach. The ramp build was part of Disability Rights & Resources’ new Volunteer Home Modification Program, which organizes groups of volunteers in the five-county area to build ramps for people with disabilities. If you would like to volunteer time or resources for a build project, please contact Kiersten Atkinson at email@example.com.
Advocacy Blitz! Let’s Pass Senate Bill 1356!!
Have you ever looked at the accomplishments of Justin Dart, Fred Fay, Michael Winter, and many others who chained their wheelchairs to buses for accessible transportation and crawled up the stairs of the Capitol for the ADA and wished you had been a part of that movement? The Blitz to Pass S. 1356 is your chance to join the efforts of countless people who have rallied for systems change and fought to ensure that laws provide equal access for all! Congress is in recess from August 5-September 6, so make plans now to meet with your Senators during town hall meetings—let them know the passage of S. 1356 is important to you as a voter and that is should also be important to them. To read more about this bill, please visit here and review the newly developed S. 1356 Talking Points. The Fix is 1356!
A Fond Farewell to Kay Phillips-Lacey
Disability Rights & Resources wishes Kay Phillips-Lacey all the best in her recent retirement! She was a beloved colleague and longtime Independent Living Specialist. Kay worked at Disability Rights & Resources for nearly 20 years. During that time, she established several close relationships with consumers, oversaw several reinventions of the DRR technology lab, and coordinated regular excursions to places like the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Now that she is officially retired, Kay is looking forward to continuing her volunteer efforts at Church of the Reconciler. Thanks for all you’ve done, Kay–you will be missed!
Mark Your Calendars!
August 9: AL DAN Regional Meeting, Disability Rights & Resources Community Room, 11-2
August 13: Distribution of Emergency Preparedness Kits, Disability Rights & Resources Community Room, 10 AM
August 21: Montgomery Center for Independent Living “Chat and Chew,” Montgomery, 11-1
August 22: Emergency Preparedness Presentation, Oakmont United Methodist Church
*Disability Rights & Resources Technology Lab Open Mon-Fri 8:30-4:00