The 2023 Annual Conference on Independent Living (NCIL) was in Washington D.C. at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. I had such a great time at the NCIL Conference and am grateful to have been able to go. NCIL’s Executive Director, Theo Braddy opened the conference with some inspiring words regarding our theme “indivisible”. He also honored the late activist Judy Heumann. Judy Heumann’s wheelchair with her picture resting on it, sat prominently among the esteemed speakers. Judy fought her entire life for justice. She is an inspiration and motivation for my efforts as I work to further her efforts. After the opening we were able to hear legislation and advocacy updates. It was motivating to be in a room with so many people working toward change.
During the week I attended numerous workshops and breakout sessions on topics including grant writing; building successful, collaborative partnerships; empowering independent living communities to engage in legislative advocacy; and setting the direction for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. These workshops were interactive and informative. I wish I could have attended them all. The exhibit fair was available to visit between workshops. This was a great chance to network with other attendees and get to know one another better.
Representing the state of Ohio as participants from each region of the United States marched to Capitol Hill was exhilarating for me. We convened in front of the capital building for an empowering rally featuring a number of speakers, including leaders in the independent, living movement and elected officials working on issues that we care about. After the rally, I was able to participate in two meetings, one in the Senate and one in the House, with elected officials to discuss some of the priorities for independent living. I love to be hands on in advocating for policy change and impact.
The evening culminated with a reception including a live band and dancing. I had a great time, met a lot of new friends, and have made lifelong memories. If you ever get the chance to go, take it. It will be worth it.
By Elizabeth Brassell