United Spinal Association and advocates from its national network of chapters, gathered in Washington, D.C. on June 7-10 for Roll on Capitol Hill to shape policies that impact the health, independence and quality of life of people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D).
Roll on Capitol Hill (ROCH) is United Spinal’s signature policy event which highlights key advocacy priorities for its membership and the broader disability community to ensure that legislators include wheelchair users and all people with disabilities in policy debates on Capitol Hill.
During Roll on Capitol Hill, attendees took part in 200 congressional office visits, meeting face-to-face with their representatives and other key legislators to personally discuss issues critical to the disability community, including the need for greater access to individually configured wheelchairs known as complex rehab technology as well as accessible transportation, medical supplies, prescription drugs, and Medicaid.
“Your courage to speak out and shed light on the issues that affect your quality of life is something that should be commended. There’s no question, your voice will make a difference for our entire community,” said Tom Aiello, a United Spinal Association board member and disabled veteran, during his welcome remarks to over 100 advocates in attendance at Roll on Capitol Hill.
“And what a fitting occasion, as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to come together on Capitol Hill to advocate for greater rights and opportunities,” Aiello added.
On June 8, ROCH attendees participated in a full day of policy briefings from advocates, agency officials and former Capitol Hill staffers.
The day began with Keynote Speaker Sharon Lewis, Principal Deputy Administrator for Community Living and Department of Health and Human Services’ Senior Advisor on Disability.
“It’s an exciting year as we gather in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities, but it’s also the 5th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which we consider to be the critical piece missing for the
“The one place that we have allowed discrimination to stand until 5 years ago is within our field of healthcare and health insurance. It’s important to remember that the Affordable Care Act and the [ADA] have a very important relationship, as you think about the work you’re doing here in DC at Roll on Capitol Hill and the importance of access to health care and health related services as a civil right,” added Lewis.
On the evening of June 9, United Spinal hosted a Congressional Awards Reception to recognize members of Congress for their outstanding service to people with disabilities and veterans, including:
- Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-08) was honored with the 2015 Disability Rights Champion Award for her leadership role in expanding the rights of veterans, veterans with disabilities, and the broader disability community.
- Rob Wittman (R-VA-1st) received the 2015 Vets First Congressional Bronze Star Award for his efforts to increase opportunities for veterans living with disabilities and to help them reintegrate into their communities.
- Senator Patty Murray (D- WA) was presented with the 2015 Outstanding Congressional Leadership Award for her extensive leadership and vocal support of disability issues.
United Spinal also honored consumer advocate Willis Washington who received the 2015 Advocate of the Year Award for his years of effective advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities, not only in his own state of Oklahoma, but across the country.
“As our representatives and the general public become more aware of the issues wheelchair users deal with on a daily basis they become more understanding. And that’s where true progress begins,” said Washington.
James Weisman, United Spinal’s EVP and general counsel was also recognized for his 38 years of selfless advocacy work to expand the rights of people living with disabilities and commitment to ensuring access to transportation for wheelchair users in New York City and across the country.
“Deep down I truly love what I do. Every day presents the opportunity to help people overcome a variety of challenges. That’s what makes the job so enjoyable, to be able to make a difference in someone’s life and share what I’ve learned over the years working within this great community,” said Weisman.
ROCH 2015 provided a platform for United Spinal’s members and chapter leaders to advocate for legislation and policies that will improve their lives, including:
- HR. 1516/S. 1013 Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act of 2015. This will create separate recognition for complex rehab technology wheelchairs under Medicare.
- Adequate funding, without limiting grants or caps for Medicaid, including home- and community-based services such as personal care attendants, transportation, wheelchairs and other equipment.
- HR. 2071, Safe Streets Act of 2015. This bill encourages communities to consider safety improvements for all users in transportation project planning.
- A long-term surface transportation bill with adequate funding measures. Any bill should ensure an accessible, affordable, reliable and safe transportation system for all in urban, suburban, and rural settings; and equal access to employment in the transportation sector.
- Ensure that all individuals with a medical condition or disability requiring certain prescription drugs or urological prosthetic supplies have access to those prescribed by their health care providers
For more information about the public policies that United Spinal addresses at Roll on Capitol Hill and throughout the year click here.
United Spinal gratefully acknowledges our Roll on Capitol Hill sponsors for their support of our members and advocates in making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of individuals living with disabilities.