As I mentioned in my last blog a couple of weeks ago, I recently came back from Washington, DC. I had to attend a face to face meeting related to my work with the National Disability Rights Network. We spent a day discussing employment and health equity in reference to people with disabilities. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, “health equity” means that everyone has a fair opportunity to live a long, healthy life. It implies that health should not be compromised or disadvantaged because of an individual or population group’s race, ethnicity, gender, income, sexual orientation, neighborhood or other social condition.”
It’s been well established by studies that having a job is not just about economics, although that’s important. Jobs also provide connections to a larger community of colleagues, as well as a sense of purpose, which we all need. Therefore, in our discussion of health equity, the group also discussed improving employment outcomes. In an interview conducted by The Telegraph with Anastasia De Waal, a social policy analyst with Civitas, she explains how the importance of having employment is paramount. “A job is about your life, it is not about your income,” she said. “It is about every aspect – having the motivation to get up in the morning, self-esteem and being a role model to your children. Income is almost secondary to that. People’s lives fall apart if they don’t have a job. They are much more likely to be depressed if they are out of work, and there is a strong relationship between unemployment and family breakdown and health difficulties.”
While I’m on the subject, I’d like to thank Bailey Liipfert for giving me my first job with a paycheck. I’ve been a volunteer all over the place, but this is my first paid position. Working on this national project was humbling for me, as I sat beside national leaders in the field of disability. One cool thing was that they didn’t know my name, but were familiar with this blog, Observations From Below. It took me a while, but I finally relaxed enough to contribute to the group. I am very much introverted and sometimes feel underqualified, so it takes me a lot longer to get comfortable, especially in environments where I’m surrounded by professionals.
I learned a good lesson when one of the main organizers came up to me after the meeting, thanking me for driving up to Washington and contributing my ideas. The lesson I learned was, just because I don’t have a lot of letters behind my name yet, doesn’t mean that I can’t contribute important ideas. The discussion at the time was about internships, and how important they are as springboards to gaining employment. I asked the group to add language about paid internships, due to mine and a number of my friends’ many volunteered internship opportunities. We often get stuck in the same cycle of no one wanting to pay us.
Since my family and I had driven up to Washington, we decided to visit the Capitol Building. We obtained tour passes through our local senator, Richard Burr. I was impressed with the accessibility of the Capitol Building. This might be a small thing, but I was actually able to find a fully accessible bathroom, something very hard to find in our Capitol Building in Raleigh. I have been there several times. I was encouraged to meet many other people with disabilities there. In fact, we had a long conversation with an advocate from California while we sat in line for almost two hours to see the House of Representatives. I should start carrying business cards, because we never exchanged information. I hope she finds me through my blog so I could help her out. In case you don’t remember civics class, the House has 435 members. So of course it was much louder and disorganized compared to the Senate, which has only 100 members. The physical space itself looks a lot bigger on TV, especially during the State of the Union Address. They really must have to squeeze them in like sardines.
Over the last two weeks, I have watched more of the conventions than the average citizen. I promise this is not a political argument, but I do notice that people with disabilities are being mentioned a lot more this year than others. That’s the one aspect of 2016 that I liked to see continued. I hope the support of people with disabilities is sincere, and not a reaction of Trump’s mocking of the disabled reporter. After all, at least in the past, disability rights have garnered support from both sides of the spectrum. In fact, most important disability rights laws have been signed by Republican presidencies. I think citizens with disabilities are still an untapped market for votes. According to the last census, we make up about 57 million people, roughly 19 percent of the population. Whichever party recognizes that first, will probably have an advantage in the future. Whichever party you support in November, I urge you all to vote. Making our voices heard is the only way we can get all politicians to listen in the future.
That’s how I rolled in DC.
- Posted by liipfertlaw
- On September 5, 2016
- 0 Comments