USICD Reaches Out to Hundreds at NCIL Conference to Help Spread the Word about the CRPD
Wednesday, July 13 started early for me as Outreach Coordinator here at USICD and Esme Grant our Disability Rights Educator. At 8:30AM that morning we stood bleary-eyed in the conference hallway of the Grand Hyatt in downtown DC, getting ready to spread the word about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to the almost 700 participants at this year’s annual National Council on Independent Living conference. NCIL has been a big supporter of our CRPD Education & Advocacy campaign and we were thrilled to continue to work with the NCIL community as we head towards ratification in the U.S. The conference this year was scheduled so that the first day, Wednesday, was focused on prep for the next day’s march to the Capitol and subsequent meetings with various Senators, Representatives and Hill staffers. Manning our new CRPD informational poster with handouts, alternative formats and most importantly stickers, we stood poised, with the help of our interns Jean de Dieu Mukunzi and Rachel Garaghty, to arm the NCIL conference participants with everything they needed to know about the CRPD.
In the opening session, following remarks by Secretary Sebelius of HHS, USICD Board President and former NCIL President Marca Bristo rallied the troops, challenging everyone to get a CRPD sticker to wear the next day on their Hill visits and to read up on the Convention from our information sheets. For the rest of the day, it was all we could do to keep up with the demand for materials and stickers, ending the day reaching out to leaders in the regional caucuses to get their support and answer any questions they had about the treaty.
The next day, Esmé and USICD Executive Director David Morrissey were at the NCIL rally to continue to distribute information and stickers and encourage folks to give voice to the CPRD in their Hill visits. On Friday, as the conference resumed, we collected feedback and were ecstatic to find out many NCIL Hill visits involved positive conversations about the CRPD with Senators and Senate staff.
But I have to say, the best part was meeting all the wonderful and dedicated advocates for independent living from all over the country. There was Stephen who was attending his first NCIL conference and couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm with all the new people he was meeting. There was Jason, a vendor who happened to be deaf, who became an advocate once he learned what the Convention was and offered to carry the CRPD message to his Senator, a close family friend. And I’ll never forget Barry from Savannah, GA who summed up the topic of the U.S. ratification of the treaty with – “it’s about time.” A passionate advocate, to be sure, among a conference full of energized, bold leaders in the disability rights arena.