United Spinal Association will host Megan Hammond from Wooster, Ohio at its 7th Annual Roll on Capitol Hill, June 24-27 in Washington, D.C., along with other prominent disability advocates, to speak directly with legislators on issues that affect the independence and quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D) and other pre-existing conditions.
Hammond, 33, a spinal cord injury research assistant at MetroHealth Medical Center, former teacher at Wooster City Schools and wheelchair user, will be attending Roll on Capitol Hill to advocate for improved community integration of people living with disabilities.
“I’m attending the Roll to improve policies that prevent me from enjoying time in my community with friends and family. Full inclusivity is important to me,” said Hammond.
Additionally, Hammond will be urging her legislators, among other issues, to pass legislation that helps people like her get properly fitted assistive and rehab technology and to strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
United Spinal and Hammond oppose the ADA Education and Reform Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives.
The Act would eliminate the 27-year-old ADA requirement that businesses remove barriers and replace it with a requirement to begin to remove barriers up to as long as four months after a person with a disability provides written notice of the violation.
“Placing the burden on myself and other persons with disabilities to enforce ADA requirements, then having to wait at least 4 months for a business to do anything, diminishes my rights and my quality of life,” said Hammond.
“No one should have that burden placed onto them, especially when the law has required barrier removal for over 27 years,” she added.
Hammond, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Middle Grades Education (4-9 grades) specializing in Language Arts and Mathematics and a Master of Education Degree as an Intervention Specialist, is an avid adaptive sport and fitness enthusiast, including handcycling, kayaking and 5k wheelchair races.
“Many think that a quality life is over with a spinal cord injury and I am here to prove that wrong,” Hammond said.
Hammond started a blog, The Wheel Life Blog, writing about different topics that she has encountered in her ten years of using a wheelchair.
Her goal is to inspire and motivate others to get out there, to advocate for themselves and others in the community and to live a life full of passion and opportunities.
Roll on Capitol Hill, now entering its 7th year, has become a valuable platform for United Spinal member advocates like Hammond to lead the charge to protect, promote and enhance disability rights, community integration and access.
The Roll also offers the opportunity for advocates to share their personal stories with legislators and provide context to critical policies that affect wheelchair users and other people with pre-existing conditions.
“I have never really been involved in policy or lobbying, but getting involved with Roll on Capitol Hill has shown me the importance of advocacy and speaking up for others,” noted Hammond.
Hammond has been a leader in the Northeast Ohio chapter of United Spinal Association for four years and will become chapter president this year. Hammond is also the Regional Advocacy Coordinator for the Great Lakes region which includes, western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and northern New York.
“Participating in Roll on Capitol Hill has allowed me to become a better leader, especially locally, in the disability community,” she said.
Hammond, who participated in the very first Roll on Capitol Hill and had been chosen to represent her chapter, explained, “I was very overwhelmed and very outside of my comfort zone, but I saw the importance of what United Spinal Association was doing.”
On July 12, 2007, Hammond was spinal cord injured while learning how to ride a motorcycle with her fiancé at the time on his parents’ 4-acre back yard. She spent the next 32 days in the ICU before being transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital.
Hammond had to relearn how to sit up, roll over, get dressed, fix food, and complete all her hygiene routines.
“I knew it was going to be a long journey, but because of the severity of my accident, I was just grateful to be alive and I knew I would make the best of this new life,” she recalled.
After a year of marriage, Hammond’s husband left and they divorced. She has been on her own from that point forward.
“I have become stronger and more independent because of my injury. If not for these struggles, I would not have learned how strong I really am,” said Hammond.
Hammond is currently pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, specializing in Career Counseling.