United Spinal Association and over 100 member advocates from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., June 23-26 for the 8th Annual Roll on Capitol Hill to ensure wheelchair users and all people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders have a seat at the table in shaping disability policies.
“We often use the slogan ‘nothing about us, without us’ to drive home the point that wheelchair users are fully aware of what works and what needs to be fixed when it comes to disability policies. That’s why it’s important to have a voice and play a role in the legislative process,” says James Weisman, United Spinal’s president and CEO.
For eight years, Roll on Capitol Hill — United Spinal’s annual signature policy event — has provided people with SCI/D a channel to hone advocacy skills and be proactive in fighting for rights and independence, at both the state and national level.
This year, with approximately 250 Congressional office visits completed and a record turnout of new member advocates, Roll on Capitol Hill attendees advanced key issues in face-to-face meetings with their state representatives, including:
• Promoting universal accessible autonomous or self-driving vehicles that include wheelchairs and wheelchair users;
• Improving access to quality affordable healthcare for people with disabilities and maximizing appropriate rehabilitation outcomes and therapies;
• Improving access to community care for veterans with disabilities.
On the evening of June 25, United Spinal hosted a reception to recognize members of Congress for their outstanding service to people with disabilities and veterans. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) received the 2019 James J. Peters Distinguished Veterans Legislator Award, and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) took home the 2019 Outstanding Congressional Leadership Award.
Kenny Salvini of Washington State and Rob Wudlick of Minnesota received 2019 Finn Bullers Advocate of the Year Awards for their leadership and long-term commitment to policy and advocacy issues impacting the SCI/D and broader disability community.
“It’s pretty humbling to see 100 people in wheelchairs rolling around Capitol Hill sharing their stories,” says Salvini. “The greatest benefit for me is meeting the different leaders from across the country. Every time I come it seems I make new friends for life.”