By ECNV Peer Mentor, Alexa Mavroidis
Last month, I attended the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) conference with several other ECNV staff. At the NCIL conference, staff from Centers for Independent Living all over the country convene to learn from one another at workshops and forums, recognize Centers and staff who have done great things for people with disabilities in their communities, and advocate for disability rights at a march to the Capitol, a rally, and visits to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators.
In the past year, the disability community has really burst onto the national scene with advocacy around issues such as health care, deinstitutionalization, and other issues important to the disability community. Ii was exciting to be part of an energized community advocating for what is important to us. In fact, one of the workshops I attended was focused on Rev Up, an effort to help people with disabilities get registered to vote, make sure people with disabilities can access their polling places, etc. It was great to hear about initiatives like National Disability Voter Registration Week, and all the things Centers and other organizations around the country are doing to help people with disabilities use their power and make their voices heard.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the conference was a screening of an upcoming documentary called the Invalid Corps, about a military reserve organization for men with disabilities during the Civil War and a battle in which they defended Washington D.C. from the advancing Confederate armies. It was powerful and moving to see that people with disabilities have always been part of history, just as we are part of every community today.
Other workshops I attended included one on what kinds of advocacy Centers and their staff can participate in and encourage, one on less restrictive alternatives to guardianship for young people with developmental disabilities who might otherwise lose their rights when they become adults, one on serving on local boards and commissions to make sure local governments consider the disability community when making decisions, and one on best practices at Centers to ensure we serve diverse communities and populations within the areas we serve.
I enjoyed my time at the conference and hope that I’ve brought back knowledge and ideas to help both my consumers at ECNV and the disability community as a whole.