2008 Disability Policy Seminar: Advancing Disability Policy in an Election Year

March 6, 2008

Together, the Association of University Center on Disabilities (AUCD), The Arc of the United States, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) sponsored the 37th Annual Disability Policy Seminar at the Hyatt Regency Washington Capital Hill on March 2-4, 2008. Over 500 people with disabilities, advocates, providers, and other professionals from around the country assembled to discuss a wide range of public policy issues affecting people with developmental and other disabilities and their families. Some of the issues included Federal funding affecting disability research, training, services and supports; Federal cuts to Medicaid through regulatory measures; the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind; services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders; and a bill to restore the American with Disabilities Act to its original intent.

Over 100 staff and trainees from University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Programs (LENDs) representing a variety of disciplines, such as nutrition, occupational therapy, psychology, social work, and special education, attended the seminar. "As a first time attendee and trainee, it was motivating to see a large diverse group of leaders unite for a common cause: to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities," said Katy Beggs, trainee from the Mailman Center (FL) LEND.

Policy experts from national organizations and agencies as well as congressional staff provided tools and information necessary to advocate for critical programs that ensure the self determination, independence, empowerment, integration, and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society. Following this two day intense policy seminar, these university trainees, along with other advocates in their states, visited with their Congressional delegations to educate them about the needs of individuals with disabilities and families in their states. Terri Abrams, Strong Center LEND and AUCD Virtual Trainee commented, "The Disability Policy Seminar was excellent. It combined the opportunity to gather and network with advocates and self-advocates from around the country, to hear from the nation's leading disability policy experts about current issues and legislation and the chance to take the information we learned right to our legislators--to actually make a difference!"

Connie Garner, the Policy Director for Disability and Special Populations for Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), was the recipient of the first annual Leadership in Disability Policy Award. Bill Kiernan, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion in Boston, Massachusetts, and AUCD President, assisted in presenting the award on behalf of all the sponsors.

Read more about the Disability Policy Seminar and access materials from the event here.