I am part of a group called the Young Adult Leadership Network (YALN). The network is comprised of fifteen young adults who have various disabilities and live in different parts of South Carolina. We meet monthly to talk about issues that are important to the disability community on local, state and national levels. We want to be the generation to keep the disability rights movement alive.
My Medicaid Matters Rally
Last September, several members of YALN had an opportunity to see disability advocacy on a national level. We took a train ride to Washington, D.C., to take part in the My Medicaid Matters Rally. The rally allowed for the disability community to persuade lawmakers not to cut funding for those who rely on Medicaid to help pay for medical equipment and hospital expenses. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn of the Capitol Building to voice their opinion. Disability rights advocates took the stage to discuss the importance of Medicaid while living with a disability.
Meeting a Civil Rights Leader
The trip was especially meaningful to me because I had the opportunity to meet Yoshiko Dart, a civil rights activist. She’s the widow of Justin Dart, who was known as “the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act” and “the godfather of the disability rights movement”. In 2009, I applied for the Disability Rights Auto Fund that was sponsored by the National Council on Independent Living and the Dart Family. Out of the nearly 80 applicants from around the country who participated in the essay contest, my essay won the competition and I received the $2,000 auto fund. Here is the link to a story about the auto fund: http://www.ncil.org/resources/autofund.html.
Sightseeing in Washington, D.C.
It was such a rewarding experience to be in a city with so much history. We visited the Thomas Jefferson and George Washington monuments along with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. memorials.
Soaring Into the Future
The advocates of the disability rights movement are counting on the younger generations to continue the legacy for equal rights. There is a lot that can be accomplished in the years to come with groups like the Young Adult Leadership Network.