United Spinal Rolls on Capitol Hill

ROCH713United Spinal Association held its second annual Roll on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on June 16-19. The event brought together more than 50 wheelchair users and activists from across the country to discuss health care, better access to complex medical equipment, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

U.S. Senator John McCain was on hand to receive the VetsFirst Congressional Bronze Star Award during an awards reception. He was honored for his efforts to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — the first treaty to address disability rights globally.

Attendees visited the Capitol Hill offices of 200 legislators and met other key policymakers to share concerns about issues and policies that affect their lives. Several topics besides the CRPD were discussed, including complex rehabilitation equipment and competitive bidding.

Ann Eubank, vice president of community initiatives for UsersFirst, says this year’s gathering was an amazing experience. “It’s very empowering to be on Capitol Hill and to go through those halls and actually meet with representatives,” she says. Eubank says the need for quality mobility equipment is especially important because the insurance companies aren’t valuing it. “For the good stuff, you have to fight,” she says.

The U.S. Congress’ failure to support the CRPD was embarrassing for the country, says Eubank. She is optimistic it will yet be ratified because of outrage from the public and because now people have had time to thoroughly review it. “It’s a good example of if you make a lot of noise you can get something done,” she says.

Eubank says the Roll on Capitol Hill can have an exponential effect when wheelchair users who attended return home and share what they’ve learned. “That’s exactly what we want as an organization,” she says. “UsersFirst is not a top-down organization.”

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