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Lydia's IL Day

By Lydia Farrell, ECNV Travel Trainer
 
On February 1st, a group of ECNV staff led by Advocacy Director, Doris Ray, traveled to the General Assembly Building in Richmond for a series of meetings with Senators and Delegates who represent our service area. In collaboration with the Virginia Association of Center for Independent Living the mission was to be a strong voice for the disability community.


 

From the left - ECNV Travel Trainer Lydia Farrell, ECNV Peer Mentor Alexa Mavroidis, Senator Janet Howell's Aid, ECNV Advocacy Director Doris Ray, ECNV Communications Manager Amir Abdolrahimi
 
Being a new staff member of ECNV, this was my first experience advocating at a legislative level. I found it to be extremely empowering to meet with the state legislators face-to-face. My perspective of the role I have in society changed quite drastically as the day went on. Driving down to Richmond I felt like a bystander with no significant voice since I do not personally have a disability. However, driving back at the end of the day I realized two things. Not only is it important to use whatever voice you have to speak up for those who need help in their ongoing fight for equity of access, but also that it is completely possible to promote change in policies that will change people’s lives for the better. It was uplifting to see the legislators agree to support the priorities we presented to them.
 
Now I encourage you all to learn about these issues and speak up to support the ongoing mission to advocate for the integration and inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of our society. Equality only exists when efforts to overcome obstacles to access is put into place.
 
Our focus was to advocate for the Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living (VACIL) Legislative Priorities for 2017:

  • Supporting the governor’s budget amendment which adds $8.5M to the state budget and authorizes overtime pay of 16 hours a week for consumer-directed personal assistants who provide services to the Elderly or Disabled with Consumer-Direction Medicaid Waiver recipients.  In many cases, the shortage of personal assistants causes consumers to not be able to find additional attendants if they need more than 40 hours of personal Assistant services per week.  A solution is for the consumer to be able to offer overtime, but right now, the General Assembly prohibits the Medicaid state agency from paying overtime if they work more than 40 hours.
  • Restoration of a $200K funding cut that all Centers for Independent Living (CILs) have had to absorb.  This funding was to pay for our efforts to establish the new fifth Core Service known as Transition.
  • Funding to address the long waiting list for DD waiver services. There are over 11,000 people on this waiting list.
  • Advocate bills that would require public school systems to assess and provide Braille literacy training to blind and vision impaired students and a separate bill that would require school systems to adequately provide sign language instruction and services to enhance the effective communication of the curriculum for deaf and hard of hearing students.