Taking Disability Advocacy to the Next Level

Linkages’ Policy, Advocacy and You event welcomes nationally acclaimed speakers from D.C.

Linkages’ Policy, Advocacy and You event welcomes nationally acclaimed speakers from D.C.

By Nicole Bruce

For the past seven years, CJE SeniorLife’s Linkages program has collaborated with other Chicago area organizations to host its annual Policy, Advocacy and You event for adults with disabilities, older adults, family members, professionals and students. The event—typically held during Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month in February, but held a little later this year—raises awareness and understanding about policy issues related to long-term supports and community services for people with disabilities and older adults. There is a particular emphasis on the importance of learning to be advocates to promote change in disability and aging policy.

On March 14, Policy, Advocacy and You: Taking Disability Advocacy to the Next Level will welcome two dynamic, nationally-known self-advocates from Washington, D.C. Both speakers work with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), a network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families and communities. Andrew J. Imparato, AUCD Executive Director, and Liz Weintraub, AUCD Senior Advocacy Specialist, are excited to bring their message of empowerment and hope for meaningful policy change to Chicago.

Sponsored by Access Living, CJE’s Linkages, Encompass, Jewish Child and Family Services, JVS Chicago, The ARK, and the UIC Department of Disability and Human Development, the event has created a safe space to explore important policy changes, share personal experiences, and join forces to harness the collective advocacy power of individuals, their families and organizations. This year’s event aims to empower participants to use their own voices and stories to more effectively advocate for meaningful state and local policy changes.

“If we take the right approach, there are ways to make progress in any environment. We need to cultivate strong leaders in people with disabilities and family members, and let them lead on policy at all levels,” said Imparato. “We have the expertise that comes from the lived experience, and I find that it’s harder for policy makers to write off our message when it’s authentic.”

The program will focus on encouraging and fostering event participants’ self-empowerment skills. Liz Weintraub knows how important it is for people with disabilities and their families to find their voice and speak up. She hosts "Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All," a weekly video series highlighting current issues in disability policy that can be found on YouTube and on the AUCD website. “I really wanted to do something to make sure that my friends and other people could understand policy, so they could advocate for themselves on issues,” said Weintraub. “I attempt to make policy as accessible as possible by breaking down the information through interviews.”

As part of the Policy, Advocacy and You program, she’ll also be talking about her experience testifying at the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, and how she wants others with intellectual disabilities to come forward as leaders who are comfortable speaking out to their legislators and influencing policy.

“I enjoy mentoring, and tell people that if I can do this as someone who never went to college and has an intellectual disability, you can also,” said Weintraub. “It’s important to include people with disabilities in policy conversations. It’s our lives and these are our issues, so we should be talking for ourselves. I’m tired of people talking for me.”

Community members and professionals working in programs that are impacted by disability and aging policy changes are encouraged to attend this year’s event. For more information about the Policy, Advocacy and You event or Linkages, a CJE SeniorLife program that assists older adults who have adult children with disabilities through resource and information services, community education programs, social events, and a support group, visit cje.net/linkages.

Policy, Advocacy and You: Taking Disability Advocacy to the Next Level
March 14, 2019 | 8:30 am–Noon

Beth Hillel Congregation B’nai Emunah
3220 Big Tree Lane, Wilmette, IL 60091

Register online by March 6, 2019 at https://jcfs.formstack.com/forms/policy_advocacy_and_you

$40 for Professionals—3 CEUs (LSW, LCSW, LPC, LCPC, QIDP)
Free for adults with disabilities, older adults, family members, personal attendants and students.