by Jennifer Wolff
The World Institute on Disability’s (WID) Disability Ambassador program provided the opportunity to attend the Upswell Conference in Chicago. My name is Jenn Wolff and I’m an activist from Iowa currently working creating a storytelling community to impact changes to Medicaid for individuals with disabilities and the direct care workers who help us live in the community.
In the advocacy work I’ve experienced both in Washington DC and in Iowa, our elected officials are bombarded by data, by budgets and by lobbyists, but need to be reminded of how constituents are impacted by the policies they are making decisions on. This is even more important for the disability community. When we speak up about our lives, about our values and all that we can do in an accessible environment with access to the right equipment, we are educating individuals on the positives we bring to this world. We are an investment, not just a number.
Upswell provided a fabulous opportunity to meet authors, musicians, entrepreneurs, inventors, storytellers, and change-makers who all just want to make the world a better place. I brought back tools to make the #UpgradeMedicaid campaign more effective in how we tell our stories from StoryCorp, learned about creating community-based policy solutions for legislators from Gabriella Barbosa, and about research-based strategies to bridge differences from the Greater Good Science Center.
Not only has this experience increased my knowledge base and given me more tools to affect change, but it also gave me more impetus to continue the work I’m doing. My community matters and too many people feel isolated in the fight for the basic human rights of access to health care, access to community living, and to be treated like anyone else rather than “less”. All the people I had the honor of meeting empowered me to continue the work as they are working to improve our world as well.
The best part about the Conference Accessibility Initiative by JP Morgan Chase and WID, is that provided a truly accessible space for individuals like myself, to be present in this important space, discussing social change. Many conferences and workshops are not as well-planned for accessibility (i.e. no ASL or CART, stairs with no ramp or lift, additional barriers), which can make individuals feel unwelcome. Upswell was amazing in its accessibility and in its positive messaging throughout the conference. Thank you for this opportunity!
Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!
To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at the Independent Sector Upswell 2019 Conference, follow the link below:
For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.
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