As others have echoed before me, these past two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. The AAPD/NCIL event was an absolute blast- I got to re-connect with some individuals I’ve met this summer as well as network with some new folks, including several who work in Boston where I live. Not to mention dancing up a storm with the other AAPD interns & staff! Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin & several members of her staff attended the AAPD/JFA event on Capitol Hill the following day, which was a huge honor. It shows how I am valued as part of the office team. Afterward, we had dinner with the Honorable Tony Coelho, the current AAPD Board Chair. It was incredible to be able to hear about his political experience firsthand- such as working on Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign.
And of course meeting President Obama was something I will never forget. As I was able to briefly mention to him, as a member of the “ADA Generation”, his administration’s commitment to strengthening & implementing the ADA means a lot to me. While we certainly have a long way to go in order to ensure justice for all- there are too many public accommodations yet to be made fully accessible, too many businesses unaware of the accommodations they are required to have in place by law- I’m glad we were able to take this week to pat ourselves on the back for the progress we HAVE made. As someone who was born the year before the ADA was signed into law, I am quite privileged to have grown up at a time where its important mandates had just come into existence. The way older members of the disability justice movement talk of the era before the ADA, I know just how much of an impact it has had. As long as we continue finding way to advocate, to think independently, to always be ready to make noise when there is injustice, to “connect the dots” in crucial ways (such as the devastating link between disability & poverty), to take risks & hold our leaders accountable, I know we will prevail. As a younger individual, I greatly admire those disability justice activists who came before me, who worked for change & rewards they knew they may not live to reap themselves. This summer has empowered me to continue developing my leadership skills so that I can do my part to keep this movement sustainable, one that includes those from all sides of the aisle. Or as the late Justin Dart might say, “Lead on!”