Legislation worth advocating for

Me and Sen. Harkin

Last week my friends and colleagues from Easter Seals Southwestern Indiana, Easter Seals Crossroads in Indianapolis, and Easter Seals Arc Northeast Indiana stormed Capitol Hill to meet with our Indiana legislature. Our goal was to advocate the passing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, along with other pieces of legislation that would increase employment opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities.

Our group of seven from the Hoosier state was accompanied by over 200 people from over 40 Easter Seals affiliates — including our executive staff from Easter Seals HQ –- and all across the country; it was the day of disability advocacy in DC. Well folks, it seems like our hard work on Capitol Hill is paying off. On Thursday, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act cleared the Senate, and is now on the way to the House.

In all honesty, I couldn’t be more excited and more proud of all the work from Easter Seals. It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to visit their state senators and congressmen and women’s offices to advocate a piece of legislation. Not only did we meet with these folks — we made a difference — and this piece of legislation is now going to impact thousands of lives in the United States. That’s an astounding accomplishment!

On top of all of the exciting work we did on Capitol Hill, our trip was capped off by a reception where we had a chance to hear from and meet Sen. Tom Harkin — a hero in the disability community — and a man who has been a champion for disability rights for over 30 years.

Although Sen. Harkin was only supposed to make a few remarks at the reception, he ended up speaking — from his heart — for over 20 minutes. He covered a wide range of disability issues that he and many others have been working hard on for many years, like the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the recent Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities. Needless to say, his words got the crowd of Easter Seals folks very excited, emotional and passionate; especially when he shared his feelings of how the United States is the leader in every aspect of disability law and legislation. Easter Seals does, after all, support the international human rights treaty of the United Nations, which is largely based on the ADA. Pretty cool.

After his remarks, I had the opportunity to speak with Sen. Harkin for about 10 minutes. I have to say, the impact of simply having a short conversation with Sen. Harkin was not something that I expected. I have known how important he has been in the disability community throughout the years, but I did not expect to be so emotionally overwhelmed and sincerely excited after meeting Tom.
Our short conversation has reinvigorated my enthusiasm about continuing my drive to improve the accessibility of airline travel for people in wheelchairs (something I’ve been working hard on for the past few years), starting an Accessible Airlines Petition and drafting an Accessible Airlines Proposal.

It is people like Sen. Harkin that drive me, drive Easter Seals folks, and continue driving the world to be a better place. Let’s all continue taking a stand whenever you have the ability to do so, and when you find something worth advocating — well — get out there and do it!


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