AUCD Disability Policy Leadership Fellow Update

March 17, 2008

Aloha from a cold Washington DC ...

As I left Hawaii, my home of 10 years, I was thrilled by this incredible opportunity that I was about to embark on as well as anxious about expectations set by myself and my new boss - Kim Musheno, Director of Legislative Affairs. This brief update outlines my experiences thus far, as well as goals and expectations for the next couple of months and throughout my fellowship.

Legislative Affairs

My passion and direction lies in this area and I did not waste any time getting started. Fortunately, I started the fellowship in time to attend the Consortiums for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) annual meeting where I got to network with various individuals from the member organizations such as Easter Seals, The Arc of the United States, National Disability Rights Network, and American Psychological Association just to name a few. CCD is made up of over 100 organizations interested in a wide range of disability issues. This meeting was very informative and provided a great foundation for understanding how AUCD interacts with other disability advocacy organizations. Over the course of the year I will be attending monthly meetings, participate in hill briefings/visits, and other activities for the following task forces:

  • Education: This task force monitors the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the Higher Education Act and advocate for appropriate educational needs of children with disabilities and their families. While there is talk about this being a "lame duck" year, I'm really looking forward to working on the reauthorization of NCLB. I also hope to share my experiences as a teacher with the group. So far I have attended the FY 09 Department of Education Budget briefing, Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on "Department of Education Budget", and various hill briefings regarding NCLB and early education.
  • Employment and Training: I am interested in this task force because I was a high school teacher and the transition to employment and employment for individuals with disabilities is less than it could or needs to be. I had an opportunity to attend a "meet and greet" with Chairman Miller's staff (Committee on Education & Labor in the House) and during that meeting it appears there could be some activity around the Rehabilitation Act which I look forward to working on.
  • Rights: Currently the priority is the ADA Restoration. I have participated in several strategic phone conferences with other CCD members and attended the hearing in the House.
  • Child Abuse: This year CAPTA is up for reauthorization and the group has been very active meeting twice a month for the last three months on revising the language from 2003. During this time Kim taught me the importance of advocating for language to protect individuals with disabilities in all areas of the law.
  • In Brief: I have taken an active role in writing articles for In Brief. This weekly task is an excellent way for me to stay focused on the key elements - who was there, what was it about, what did I learn, how will it effect our network, and what are the next steps.

Policy Seminar

After seven weeks in DC, the policy seminar was an excellent way to recap key issues and legislation. I was able to really understand in detail what was being presented because I had a vocabulary base from the previous 7 weeks. For example words like, "regulations", "moratorium", budget resolution, reconciliation, and appropriations made a lot more sense than when I first came. Hearing discussions around the issues of the Medicaid regulations, the Barney Frank Bill (H.R. 3995), and the DD Act were more valuable because I could really listen to the issues and not just wonder, "what?, huh and wish I knew what they were talking about!" Also, hearing the concerns of the self-advocates, providers, and other professionals and bringing it together with my own experiences as a classroom teacher really gets me excited about being an AUCD Policy and Leadership Fellow and the year to come.

ADD Technical Assistance

Part of my responsibility as the fellow is to be the liaison between AUCD central office and the Council on Community Advocacy (COCA). Once a month in a conference call I serve as a facilitator ready to support COCA and their efforts to strengthen consumer advisory committees across the network. In addition, I am currently organizing and facilitating 2 webinars to the UCEDD Directors and Research Coordinators. Although Legislative Affairs are my primary area of interest, George Jesien gave excellent advice. He told me that the most effective advocates are those who really understand the workings of the Federal agencies, professional organizations as well as the legislative process.

Act Early Summit

Following George's advice I was eager to work on the Act Early Summit sponsored by the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (CDC/NCBDDD). During this summit I served as a facilitator and really had the opportunity to listen to how the states were organizing teams to enhance statewide screening, identification, service provisions and coordination for families and children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).


So far the fellowship has exceeded my expectations. Kim and George have given me just the right amount of flexibility to explore my interests but not too much where I lose focus or become scattered.


During the next couple of months I hope to really get more involved in the CCD Education task force and NCLB. I also look forward to continuing to network with congressional staff and other Federal agencies. I am really enjoying the Act Early Summits and hope to continue working with this group as well. I also hope that it gets warmer soon!

By Tammie Picklesimer, MEd
Disability Policy Leadership Fellow