Special thanks to Glenn Ashley, retired staff from UCP, for his assistance in working to help put this post together.
UCP of Michigan’s Public Policy Specialist, Barb Valliere, was invited to attend the U.S. Regional Meeting of Popular Movements (RMOPM), which ran from February 16-19 in Modesto, CA.Part of international movements called by the Pope, the meeting in California brought together nearly 700 leaders from clergy members to grassroots leaders to provide input on a variety of social issues, including: job access and inclusion for people with disabilities, environmental issues, and racism. This meeting was the third in a series of international meetings (the previous two were held in Rome and Bolivia) aimed at bringing together members of the clergy and grassroots activists. For Barb, while the journey to California marked her first time on a plane, as Catholic woman with cerebral palsy it was an opportunity she could not pass up.
Ms. Valliere was one of three people invited from the Lansing, MI area to attend the meeting. Her invitation was a result of her leadership and work in community organizing efforts at the state and national levels. Initially, no one from the area was scheduled to speak, however, an issue with accessibility changed all of that. After requesting to be put in an accessible room, Barb was put in a room that was not accessible for her. The conference organizers were able to rectify the problem and accommodate her with another room. RMOPM asked her if she would like to address the entire assembly at dinner about the problem and her experience as person with a disability.
In her remarks to the assembly, she emphasized the importance of civil rights for people with disabilities. Attendees were reminded that when they plan events and invite people, to make sure to take care of their needs and have the event accessible to all, and to not assume that a space is accessible on word alone. She also encouraged other individuals with disabilities to advocate for yourself to ensure that your needs are met. Ms. Valliere made her point in community organizing fashion, encouraging event participants to move deeper into a discussion on access and issues that affect the disability community.