The Pope, A New Speaker and a Budget: What’s Going on in Washington Right Now

It has been an exciting few weeks here in Washington, D.C.  It started with the city in celebration mode to host the pope and ended with the Speaker of the House resigning and the House and Senate passing a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that avoided a government shutdown.iStock_000012685951XSmall

While the CR is only short-term it was necessary as Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills and send them to the president’s desk.  As is the CR will continue to fund the government at fiscal year 2015 levels through December 11, 2015.

The current CR means that funding for programs and agencies important to the disability community, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain intact.

However, the looming December deadline still presents many reasons for us to remain watchful.  In addition to carving out a larger and longer-term budget agreement that must address across the board cuts and extend past the 2016 elections, Congress must also address hitting the federal debt ceiling.   

As for the new speaker of the house, it is likely to be Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).  However, many members are running for the other key positions in the leadership.  What is clear is that no matter who is nominated, they will surely have a full plate to deal with.

Here at UCP, we will continue to monitor the discussions and update you as the process proceeds.

 

Going Out with a Disability: Will I Be Able to Go In?

Guest blogger Sean Gray is from Washington, DC and runs two independent record labels, Fan Death Records and Accidental Guest Recordings. He has written for local DC news outlets DCist and Washington CityPaper.

It was a November afternoon; it was a tough week as I had just gotten laid off from my day job. I decided I should probably leave my apartment, go see some friends and see a band play at a local bar/venue. I saw a Facebook event invite from a band I knew I liked, but as soon as I opened it and looked at the location, I knew I couldn’t go.

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Sean Gray Performing

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Sean Gray Performing

I’m 32 and I have Cerebral Palsy. I’ve always been into music, especially not-so-well known artists. I’ve been going to concerts since I was 14 and many shows have helped shape who I am today. Music is a social experience, so it’s a good outlet to meet new people, hear new ideas, and really feel like part of a community. Some of bands who play smaller shows tend to push inclusion, which is great. The smaller performances I was going to when I was younger (and still to this day) have addressed many types of oppression. Yet, they never seemed to address disability and accessibility. I used to think my disability didn’t matter and that it wasn’t real because none of my peers were talking about it.

Going out with a disability isn’t easy. I’ve been socialized to believe that I can “do anything”. The reality is I can’t-not because I’m not smart enough or don’t have the skills-but because of the barriers put in my way because of how we treat and view disability in society. I wouldn’t question why there were stairs at a certain place, or why the bathroom wasn’t accessible because I was socialized not to. I was socialized to deal with it and view it as a part of life or some kind of hurdle that I just have to get over. I could never hide my disability, sure, but I would almost pretend it didn’t exist, especially when I was in any kind of social environment. I didn’t really start to come out with my disability until I was in my mid-20s. I started to question why people weren’t talking about my experiences, and really felt what I was going through was being swept under the rug. Maybe it was because the ADA exists, and maybe it was because there are visual reminders such as ramps, curb cuts, elevators, that people think life is now “easier” for those with disabilities, but in reality, at least for me, this wasn’t the case.

I got tired of not being able to go to a certain place because of inaccessibility. The whole idea of me just “dealing with it” started to really wear on me, and I got angry. Those with disabilities seemed to be stripped of certain feelings/experiences which can be romance, sexuality, and even anger. The angry disabled person makes others uncomfortable, and it should. Why should I have to just deal with it, or forego experiences because of this inaccessible world? While many might think “well you have friends that could help you,” it isn’t that easy. While I feel comfortable most of the time asking for help in inaccessible places, sometimes I don’t and just because I feel comfortable doesn’t mean everyone else with a disability does. Our experiences and disabilities are all different. I needed to own my disability and realize it as oppression. I don’t buy into the whole “my disability doesn’t own me” idea. This is a real oppression that needed to be recognized in my life.

If there’s one thing I have learned from underground bands is that I can advocate for myself. Instead of being angry, maybe I should call out the venue publicly and that be the end of it, but I wanted to do more. Information is power and if I could provide information on certain venues and their accessibility or inaccessibility, maybe it would help not only those with disabilities, but bands, patrons, and even the venues themselves to see who they are really leaving out at these places. I created a website containing detailed information about each venue I know in the Washington, D.C. area. This website, called “Is This Venue Accessible?,” would become a resource whenever needed. I tried to include little things that only my personal experience as someone with a disability would grasp such as: height of stairs, how sturdy are the railings, and if there are bathrooms on all floors.

While I don’t expect venues to change overnight (or even at all, especially the smaller places/DIY venues) I do believe this resource will make people think of accessibility issues they never thought of before. I hope that this site might put pressure on venues to rethink and retool accessibility in their establishments. If a bigger band or artist refuses to play their due to the lack of accessibility and the venue, it becomes a business decision. There is no one size fits all answer for accessibility. Just because I use a walker doesn’t mean what’s accessible for me is going to be accessible for someone who has a visual impairment. My disability is physical and easy to see, but that’s not true for everyone.

My dream is to have this expand beyond just the D.C. metro area. The response has been great with many people offering to help with accessible web design and even putting this all into a searchable database. Accessibility is something that still seems to be ignored. We need to start rethinking how we view disability and what it means to have a disability. In the end it’s simple: accessibility is inclusion and if we are excluding one, we are excluding all.

 

New Event Series for Young People with Disabilities and Young Veterans

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and Student Veterans of America (SVA) announce a unique partnership that will allow both young adults with disabilities and young veterans to network and increase engagement and collaboration. The project was developed with the support of the National Youth Transitions Center and the Youth Transitions Collaborative (www.thenytc.org).SVA Circle JPEG

An educational series of events called “Engage: A Diverse Event Series” will take place between September and December 2014, covering finance, adaptive sports, disability and military history and wrapping up with a social evening of networking. The events will be open to youth and young adults with disabilities from ages 14-26 and veterans under the age of 35 in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Each event will have a specific subject of focus, addressing key social and educational components and offer a welcoming atmosphere.

The events are free but space is limited for each event, so registration is required. The hope is that by bringing together people from different backgrounds, they will be able to better learn from one another about their individual and shared experiences. Overall, the event series is designed to be a basis for further collaboration within the D.C. area, and serve as venue to further spread best practices.

EVENT DETAILSAdaptive Sports

Wednesday, September 24 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

National Youth Transition Center at 2013 H Street NW in Washington, D.C.

Financial Education
Network and share your challenges with optimizing financial resources with financial planning experts including representatives from TD Bank, who will offer advice and guidance through interactive budgeting activities. Food and drinks will be provided!


Tuesday, October 21 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

National Youth Transition Center at 2013 H Street NW in Washington, D.C.

Adaptive Sports
Continue to network while learning about adaptive sports with representatives from Disabled Sports USA who will share their stories, answer questions and demonstrate equipment. Food and drinks are provided!


Wednesday, November 18 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. 

American History Museum at 14th & Constitution Avenue, NW.

Disability and Military History
Hear from the curatorial staff of the Division of Armed Forces History and the Division of Science and medicine at the Smithsonian Institution Accessibility Program followed by behind-the-scenes tours of collections of armed forces and disability history. Snacks and drinks will be provided. And, of course, enjoy networking!


Wednesday, December 10 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

National Youth Transition Center at 2013 H Street NW in Washington, D.C.

Networking Reception
Enjoy an evening filled with networking, food, beverages and music, as we wrap up our event series.

 

REGISTER BY CLICKING HERE!

 

Please contact O’Ryan Case, UCP’s Director of Membership and Public Education at (202) 973-7125 or ocase@ucp.org if you have any questions.