Va-LEND Faculty Shares Impact of ADA

August 7, 2020

This July marked the 30th year of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), put into place to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Jack Brandt, the Disability Advocacy (DA) track coordinator for the Virginia LEND (Va-LEND) program, mentors trainees in understanding the legislative process and how policies such as ADA impact people with disabilities and their families. He shares, "I have been impacted by the physical accessibility that the ADA provides for. I also utilize a reasonable accommodation to do my work. I have been fortunate to dedicate my career to the goals of the ADA and the DD Act."

With this inspiration, Brandt helped design the DA track specifically for people with disabilities and family members with an interest in policy. "This is the largest cohort of the DA track: we currently have 7 trainees and is the first time a sibling has been involved in the DA track. It is also fully online due to the pandemic. I am looking forward to seeing how this compares with past years where we met in person." Brandt noted that one of the challenges he faced to support people with disabilities reaching their goals was access to participate in academic programs. "Everybody does not fit into the box that academia wants you to fit in. People can offer a lot to the pursuit of knowledge and we need to figure out ways to make it more accessible to all." His vision is to integrate the DA track with other leadership opportunities in the state. The transition to online learning also raises the possibility of opening the DA track to people living in parts of Virginia where transportation is an issue.

In addition to working for four years for Va-LEND, Brandt has worked 11 years for the Partnership for People with Disabilities (Partnership) as their Disability Policy Specialist. "I coordinate the policy efforts for the Partnership such as monitoring state and federal policy, drafting policy briefs, and attending meetings. For the DA coordinator position, I co-lead lectures about policy, advise trainees, monitor the curriculum for the DA trainees, and coordinate the Disability Policy Seminar for the trainees," reports Brandt, who holds a Bachelors' degree in Political Science and Philosophy and a Master's in Rehabilitation Counseling. Brandt shares, "I am proud to see how others develop their leadership skills and my role in guiding them. His advice to those who want to make a difference? "Just show up at meetings and at advocacy events to be part of the solution."