Each year, advocates meet with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill to discuss and promote education, research, healthcare and legislative priorities for people with Down syndrome and their families. Advocates include individuals with Down syndrome (called self-advocates), family members, professionals, affiliate leaders and members and others.
"The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) encourages everyone from across the country to participate in this extraordinary event that not only celebrates people with Down syndrome but also empowers the Down syndrome grassroots network to become active in supporting and shaping legislative efforts that are beneficial to our community at large," said Sara Weir, vice president, Advocacy & Affiliate Relations, NDSS.
At the Buddy Walk on Washington, NDSS hosts an interactive advocacy training session and presents its annual Champion of Change awards at an annual advocacy awards dinner.
While the event doesn’t include an actual walk, it has kept The Buddy Walk name to maintain the message of the National Buddy Walk Program — to raise awareness and inclusion for people with Down syndrome. The funds raised by the National Buddy Walk Program directly support the annual Buddy Walk on Washington and the work that NDSS does in Washington, D.C.
In 2013, a hot legislative topic will be the Achieve a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which was reintroduced to Congress recently.
The ABLE Act is bipartisan legislation that will allow individuals with disabilities and their families to set aside money in tax-free accounts for education, housing and transportation needs just like a 529 college savings account.
"Passing this legislation will go a long way for people with Down syndrome, and give all people with disabilities a strong foundation to pursue their own hopes, dreams and aspirations," Weir says.
Currently, barriers to employment, independent living, and ultimately, economic self-sufficiency, exist because individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities must rely on services like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But to qualify for these services, individuals with Down syndrome may not have more than $2,000 in assets, and earn no more than $674 in a monthly income.
"We have important goals to accomplish in Washington, like passing the ABLE Act, and we need everyone’s help," Weir adds.
In 2012, 340 advocates from 42 states participated in the Buddy Walk on Washington.
Image: NDSS advocates storm the U.S. Capitol to advocate for legislative priorities that positively impact the lives of people with Down syndrome.
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