Jewish Disability Advocacy Day (JDAD) 2022 focused on breaking down barriers and making positive change. The two-day virtual event, hosted by the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), featured leaders of partner organizations on panel discussions, emphasized the collective power of the disability community to advance pertinent legislation, and highlighted disability advocacy champions.
The thought-provoking panels focused on barriers to inclusion, breaking down those barriers, and advocating for change. Barriers mentioned in the panel discussions included the lack of accessible transportation, employer misconceptions about employing individuals with disabilities, and the tendency to focus solely on people’s disabilities instead of recognizing their abilities. Panel members also shared tips for successful advocacy, including concentrating on local change, ensuring all resources are accessible, and placing individuals with disabilities in leadership positions.
Jewish Youth Climate Movement Coordinator at Hazon, Abigail Bresler said, “we need to empower disabled people to be the leaders, decision makers, and advocates for change.”
The final panel session of JDAD highlighted national legislative priorities to advance the rights of individuals with disabilities and included a call to action for attendees. Key legislative issues discussed were the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, Investing in Medicaid HCBS, and SSI Restoration Act. Panel members provided an overview of these legislative priorities and shared the positive impact that passing this legislation would have on millions of individuals with disabilities.
Participants were encouraged to use the provided action alerts to send letters and tweets to their members of Congress. Additionally, organizers distributed a lobbying interest form for those seeking further engagement in disability-related legislation.
“Authentic voices are most important to our members of Congress,” said Elana Broitman, JFNA’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. “Advocacy will drive change.”
According to Barbara Weinstein, RAC’s Associate Director, “the three P’s of advocacy are prepared, personal, and polite.”
At the opening ceremony, co-chairs of JFNA’s Disability Committee presented prestigious awards to disability advocates and leaders. Senator Bob Casey and Representative Debbie Dingell were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to advancing disability rights. In addition, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick was recognized as Legislator of the Year, and Emily Ladau was awarded the Advocate of the Year Award.
Also at the opening ceremony, Tony Award-winning Broadway actress Ali Stroker and Paralympian Ezra Frech shared their stories and talents.
JDAD harnessed the collective power of the Jewish disability community and its allies. JDAD occurred towards the end of Jewish Disability Action and Inclusion Month, a month dedicated to ensuring the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life.