Last week I attended the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington DC, the "other" Washington. The Arc of the US and five other organizations who advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities sponsored the seminar which wrapped up with a day of visits to congressional leaders in our nation's capitol.
The seminar provided fact sheets on a variety of issues. You can view them at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org (click the General Info tab, then Attendee resources). You will find other useful information on this site too.
Here in Washington State, self advocates worked very hard and got the Respectful Language bill passed, which replaces the phrase "mentally retarded" with "intellectual disability" in all state language. In the "other" Washington they call this bill "Modernization of Disability Terminology". It essentially does the same thing at the federal level. There are two identical bills, S. 2781 (Rosa's Law) in the Senate and H.R. 4544 (Elizabeth A. Connelly Act) in the House. Contact your congressional representatives and ask them to support these important bills.
Other issues we discussed with congressional staff included thanking them for Health Care Reform, Long Term Services and Supports Provisions in Health Reform, Employment, Direct Support Workers, the 2011 Budget and Appropriations including continuing the increase in the FMAP, the D.D. Act, Education, the ABLE Act, Housing and Autism. You can learn more about these issues at the web site listed above.
Maria Cantwell was very gracious. She listened intently as Mike Raymond, a self advocate in our group, talked about growing up in Rainier School (one of our state's institutions). With tears in his eyes he told her the reason he hates the "r" word so much is because that is what the staff there would call him all the time. He asked her to please pass the bill like he helped do in our state.
It was a great trip and our group was glad to have the chance to thank congressional leaders for their work on passing the health care bill and to advocate for the programs and services most important to them.
On a final note, while we were in Washington DC our legislature at home finally passed a revenue package and a budget in the last days of the special session. Advocates for developmental disability issues were pleased that the final budget provided the funding for most of the services they were fighting to keep intact. Although the budget has not yet been signed by the Governor (where there is always the possibility she could veto part of it) you can see what was in the final budget the legislature passed as well as the bills that made it through the process at http://www.arcwa.org/leg_session.htm
Next year promises to be another difficult budget year so the time to start preparing is now. Thank you to everyone for your advocacy!
The Arc of Washington State
Advocacy Partnership Project