Joint conference rallies around access

Friday, April 22, 2016

ARLINGTON, Va. – Programming a conference for three separate organizations sounds like a challenge, but that’s not the case for the upcoming RESNA/NCART 2016 Conference, organizers say.

“Collaboration is a buzzword—it’s easier said than done,” said Mike Brogioli, executive director of RESNA. “But I’ve found (combining these conferences) hasn’t been a challenge. It’s been more of an opportunity.”

The event, hosted by NCART, NRRTS and RESNA, and slated for July 10-14 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va., will include interactive exhibits; more than 50 workshops; research platforms and poster sessions; Capitol Hill visits; pre-conference instructional courses; networking events; and student competitions.

This year’s theme:“Promoting Access to Assistive Technology.”

“Both conferences are focused on assistive technology—RESNA more broadly—but they have always included seating and mobility,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “On a very high level, there’s a common goal: Making sure people with disabilities have access to these type of products and equipment.”

Conference organizers say they’ve worked closely with each of the organizations to ensure that the sessions have broad-based appeal and balanced representation. However, Brogioli hopes attendees will use the conference as an opportunity to attend sessions outside of their specialty.

“You want to stretch yourself and learn,” he said.

While there will be more sessions and workshops for all attendees to choose from, the biggest difference—at least for traditional RESNA members—will be the addition of a Capitol Hill Day, an NCART/NRRTS conference staple. Attendees will have the option to advocate for 1.) access to and funding for assistive technology and/or 2.) specific complex rehab legislation that would prevent CMS from implementing competitive bidding prices to complex rehab wheelchair accessories, as well as a pair of bills that would create a separate benefit category for complex rehab.

“I think it will be a new and great experience for RESNA folks to literally take the message to Congress,” said Brogioli. “It’s democracy in action and it’s our duty as citizens to inform and educate our congressional offices who are there to serve us.”