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Closing Plenary


With the goal of hearing from a broad spectrum of federal policymakers, AUCD is holding the Closing Plenary on Capitol Hill. Join us to hear from our champions about their priorities and policies. Previously we have heard from leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Steve Daines, Senator Bob Casey, amongst others.


Plenary Speakers

Phoebe Ball
Phoebe Ball serves as the Senior Counsel for the House Education and Workforce Committee.  In this role, she works on various issues such as the phase out of 14 (c) certificates and subminimum wage, and inclusion of people with disabilities in higher education.  Prior to working for the Education and Workforce Committee, she worked for the National Council on Disability and Disability Rights Florida.  

Senator Bob Casey
Senator Casey, a Democratic Senator from the state of Pennsylvania, has spent his time in Congress working to implement policies to improve services and supports for people with disabilities.  He is the Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. His commitment to improving healthcare, education, and wages for people with disabilities has made a significant impact since his first time in 2007. Read more about Senator Casey on his website.
Melanie Davis, Advocate Mentor Melanie Davis, Advocate Mentor
My lived experience as a person with a disability has afforded me many opportunities in the advocacy space – to become a better-informed advocate for myself and others and to build my professional knowledge and experience. Some of these opportunities have included participating in Minnesota’s Partners in Policymaking series and completing two years of extensive training within the Nebraska UCEDD that led to, for example, attending the AUCD leadership academy.  Melanie is currently based at the Munroe Meyer Institute in Omaha, Nebraska and is on the AUCD Board of Directors.
Senator Tammy Duckworth Senator Tammy Duckworth
Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms. Read more about Senator Duckworth on her official webpage. Twitter: @SenDuckworth
Senator Chris Murphy Senator Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy, the junior United States Senator for Connecticut, has dedicated his career to public service as an advocate for Connecticut families. Senator Murphy has been a strong voice in the Senate fighting for job creation, affordable health care, education, sensible gun laws, and a forward-looking foreign policy. As a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) Senator Murphy has worked to make college more affordable and ensure that our public education system works to serve all students. Read more about Senator Murphy on his official webpage.
Katy Neas Katy Neas, Deputy Assistant Secretary
Katherine Neas is the deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education. In this capacity, she serves as advisor to the U.S. secretary of education on matters related to the education of children and youth with disabilities, as well as employment and community living for youth and adults with disabilities. The mission of her office is to improve early childhood, educational, and employment outcomes, and to raise expectations for all people with disabilities, their families, their communities, and the nation. Read more about Katy Nease on the US Department of Education webpage.
Sarah Mueller, Disability Policy Director Sarah Mueller, Disability Policy Director
Sarah Mueller was the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Disability Policy Fellow at the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) and now serves as a Disability Policy Director for HELP. She formerly served as the Disability Policy Fellow at Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). Before joining AUCD, Sarah was a University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities Trainee at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. Both as a sibling and as a professional, Sarah has expertise on topics including special education, family/professional partnerships, and self-advocacy. Her personal and professional experiences combine to provide a unique perspective on disability and economic justice for people with disabilities.
Rachel Patterson Rachel Patterson, Disability Policy Director
Rachel Patterson serves as the Disability Policy Director for the White House Domestic Policy Council.  Prior to serving at the White House, she worked as the Senior Director of Federal Relations and Policy at the Epilepsy Foundation and as well Director of Public Policy for the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation. Rachel also is closely connected to AUCD. She worked at AUCD from 2011-2015 as the Policy Manager and as a Program Specialist.

Hill Visits

"You are strongly encouraged to visit your Members of Congress while in Washington for the AUCD Conference. Your Senators and Representatives need to hear directly from you about the work that you do and why it is important to people with disabilities in your state and nationwide as we work to build new congressional champions on disability issues. These visits ensure that your Senators and Representatives learn about the work that you do and why it is important to people with disabilities in your state and nationwide, and you form relationships with potential congressional champions on disability issues.

You will need to call your Members to schedule the meetings before you arrive.  If you haven't already done so, we suggest that you do this as soon as possible but at least a week in advance.  Making appointments and meeting with your Members is easy!

Follow these Steps

  1. Call the Capitol switchboard 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator or Representative or use our Action Center and enter your Zip Code to find your officials' phone numbers.
  2. Ask to speak to the staff person that handles health or disability
  3. Say that you would like to schedule an appointment for Nov. 8 early in the afternoon to provide an update on the research, education, training, and services your Center is providing.
  4. Then make the appointment. (Schedule Senate or House visits together and give yourself at least 30 minutes to walk to the other side of the Capitol.  We suggest scheduling multiple meetings in 30 minute increments.)
  5. Use the attached sample talking points or prepare your own. Take copies of research briefs, helpful data, and real people stories and tie them to your policy objectives.

Contact [email protected] with specific policy questions or if you need assistance to make your appointments.

Finally, provide us feedback from your visits. We will provide feedback forms to help you.

Thanks again for making an effort to meet with your Members of Congress or their staff. This activity will help policymakers make better policy decisions and help AUCD advocate for congressional support of network activities!