July 1, 2016

By: Cuquis Robledo

Cuquis5During my fourth week with Disability Rights Washington, I traveled with the creative director and project communications manager of Rooted in Rights to Baltimore for the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) conference. This conference gives a chance for all of the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) organizations in the US and US territories to come together and get updated on the newest disability issues and how to better their own P&A to be more efficient with these issues.

One of the main jobs I had while at the conference was to help my co-workers promote our Rooted in Rights services to other P&As. With social media and video becoming a greater trend in advocacy work, other P&As are starting to realize the value of having videos describe their annual reports or specific issues their working on. Using videos, I learned, brings in a whole other demographic to become aware about disability issues, that demographic being young adults. In the past year, Rooted in Rights has worked with other P&As, such as the P&A in Arizona, or Disability Rights Texas, to produce videos for them on disability issues they are currently working on, specifically on voter registration for people with disabilities (PWD). But at this conference, my co-workers had a session about how to create a powerful advocacy video with only just a smartphone. So now coming back to Duke, I can actually use what I learned through this session and create advocacy videos to share on campus.

Cuquis2What is interesting about video is how it brings everyone together, and can further create community integration for PWD. Staff attorneys from other P&As recognized our work and we got network with them as well to further create this great community that advocates for PWD. In turn, these videos we produce can hopefully continue to create action so PWD can feel more integrated into the community and society.

And it was not only our videos that discussed community integration, but the whole conference focused on this theme of integration as well. For instance, a couple of the sessions I went to discussed about the importance of PWD voting in the upcoming 2016 presidential election and how we need to have more accessible voting booths out there, or people who know how to use them, so PWD can participate. Another session I went to discussed how children with disabilities have a right to be integrated in a classroom setting and not be pulled out suddenly or sent home due to disruption of the classroom. Caseworks discussed in this session included children who are on the autism spectrum, children who have ADHD, and kids who had PTSD, anxiety disorder, or were suicidal.

Cuquis1Finally, a big topic discussed at the conference was the need to create more resources for PWD in prison who are about to re-enter into society. Most ex-convicts with disabilities end up back in the prison because they are not given the proper guidance or resources to help them on the right path. This includes affordable housing that does not turn away PWD with prison records and even basic needs such as Medicare or Medicaid. Disability Rights Washington (DRW) is currently during work with state jails and prisons along with a few other P&As in their states, to ensure that PWD are getting proper treatment and resources while they are in these institutions, and hopefully when they get out. This project is called Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities, otherwise known as the AVID Prison and Jail Project. DRW just recently released their AVID prison report for this year.

Cuquis4At the end of the conference, the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, spoke about the importance of providing housing opportunities for PWD, even if it is difficult to afford. Having accessible housing prevents PWD from ending up on the street, and with PWD off the street, the less likely they will end up back in the prison system. I ended up giving the secretary our Rooted in Rights business card, and hopefully this will spark an interest in him to work with us on video content that deals with community integration for people with disabilities.

Click here to watch the AVID Prison Report Trailer

 

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