Thursday, June 11, 2009

As It Turns Out, Transportation is Not the Only Issue

For the past year I have been the Transportation Systems Advocate at The Center for Disability Rights focusing all of my energy on fighting the shamelessly discriminatory bus company in Rochester, NY. My world outside of school consisted of conducting meetings about the ridiculous troubles that disabled people go through trying to get transportation, filing FTA complaints, protesting at board meetings, and surveying disabled fixed route and paratransit riders about thier experiences. Fighting the bus company is a never ending job and I needed a break.

This, of course, is where AAPD came in. When a co-worker emailed me the information about the internship my initial thoughts were, "Wow! A summer working in D.C. would be a vacation compared to this job!"

Let me tell you, it only one week of working with Lee Perselay in Senator Harkin’s office for me to realize that my initial thoughts completely wrong.

My life now, as an AAPD intern in Senator Harkin’s office, consists of much less sleep and a much larger intake of coffee. Additionally, my life consists of much less transportation issues, and a much larger array of disability related issues across the board. I love it!

In my first week, I learned more about the financial aspects of the Community Choice Act, I sat in a meeting with nominated assistant secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Kathy Martinez, I researched affordable, accessible housing and I even presented a workshop on sexuality and disability at the National Council on Independent Living 2009 Conference.

Although this internship is a much heavier workload than I first imagined, I am beyond excited to have my hands in all of these different issues. I love expanding my knowledge across the disability spectrum so that I can continue to be a better advocate everyday.

I am confident that after working on The Hill for the next two months, I will go back to Rochester with more knowledge and revitalized stamina that will help me to continue fighting for the rights of the disability community in public transportation and beyond!

Stephanie Woodward

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