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DeafBlind Citizens Take the Lead

July 11, 2016

By Vivian Fridas

Woman with long brown hair, seated with black labrador service dog next to her

Vivian Fridas

 

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, as an intern at the USICD office, I was invited to attend a reception with the organization DeafBlind Citizens in Action (DBCA) and its members. This reception was held to celebrate the success of the group during their leadership program week in Washington DC. The leadership program seeks to bring members together in order to acquire leadership skills which they can then use in order to give back to the community. DBCA is a disability rights organization founded by young deaf blind adults who strive for a better world for all.

One of the many things on the agenda for the leadership week with DBCA included meeting with their respective representatives in order to gain support and sponsorship for the Cogswell-Macy Act. This bill was introduced into Congress in September 2015 and aims to ensure that students who are deafblind, deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired reach their full potential and receive the education they deserve. The Cogswell-Macy Act was named for the first deaf student to be formally educated in the United States and for Helen Keller’s beloved teacher. This is the most comprehensive special education legislation for students with sensory disabilities: supporters believe it is crucial for these students if they are to have equal opportunities in the classroom.

It was very fitting that all this advocacy work was being done in late June as June 27th marked the 136th birthday of Helen Keller, who was a well-known deafblind American. We celebrate her birthday not just because she was deafblind, but because Helen Keller was a champion of social causes and an advocate for all. Meeting members of DBCA made me realize that there is still a lot of work needed to be done here in the United States with our disabled students. It was empowering to be in the presence of other members in the disability rights field who were contributing to enhancing the world for deafblind individuals as well as people with disabilities in general. I learned a lot about what DBCA does and issues important to the deafblind community. I had very little exposure to topics important to deafblind people and little interaction with deafblind individuals up until now. I am glad I was able to attend this reception and gain more knowledge on a subset of the world’s largest minority.

After spending time with members of this organization, I am hopeful that they will achieve their goals set out during the leadership program week. I am also confident people with disabilities will be able to live full and productive lives with equal opportunities when we come together and advocate for legislation like the Cogswell-Macy Act. Something like this will ensure a better world is created for people with disabilities in which all can enjoy an equal shot at all parts of life.

Vivian Fridas is one of the participants in the 2016 USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program, to be posted at this blog.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  Vivian Fridas is completing her internship at USICD.  Learn more about the internship program at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=257.  Read Vivian Fridas, and the biographies of other interns in the summer 2016 program.  The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD.

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