Last week, more than 150 advocates from around the country came to Washington for the 6th annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD). The event was sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (RAC). Staff and lay leaders from the JCPA were joined by community relations professionals from Florida, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, DC, Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well as many other Jewish professionals who work on disability issues.
This year, advocates took to the Hill to ask for legislators’ support for respite for caretakers through the RAISE Family Caregiver Act (H.R.3099) and the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3913). Advocates also heard firsthand from Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), sponsor of H.R. 3913 and a person who lives with a disability, as he shared the significance of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act twenty years ago and its impact on his life in public service.
It is shocking to note that 28% of all disabled Americans live in poverty, so advocates also pushed legislators to support the Transition to Independence Act (S.1604), which addresses the need for competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Employment can be empowering, and having more job opportunities in an integrated setting allows greater opportunity for economic self-sufficiency.
Before their engagments with Members of Congress, advocates were joined by Maria Town, Associate Director of Public Engagement at the White House, Jennifer Sheehy, the acting Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment, Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, and several members of Congress. All of the panelists shared their personal experiences with disability and how enacting the changes laid out by these pieces of legislation is a crucial step toward improving the lives of those with disabilities.