Joint mobility conference breaks records

Friday, July 15, 2016

ARLINGTON, Va. – The decision to combine two mobility-related conferences involving three organizations has paid off, organizers say.

“The conference is a big step closer in coordinating between (RESNA, NCART and NRRTS),” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “People are talking more broadly about advocacy on some of the issues that everyone has in common. That was one of our objectives, so (it’s great) to see that going on at the conference.”

More than 600 complex rehab and assistive technology stakeholders attended the joint event, held July 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. That’s triple the number at last year’s complex rehab conference hosted by NCART and NRRTS.

The joint conference allowed attendees to see a wider breadth of technology and encouraged them to think outside the box.

“I think (the conference) gives us a lot of resources in one place, which is really great,” said Jenny Siegle, a consumer advocate. “There was a workshop for adaptive gaming—that’s something I’ve never even thought of and I’ve been in a wheelchair for 33 years.”

As part of the conference, stakeholders met with a record-breaking 260 congressional offices to advocate for access. Topping the list of their priorities: adding co-sponsors to a pair of bills that would prevent CMS from applying competitive bid pricing to accessories used on complex rehab power wheelchairs.

Stakeholders also asked Congress to co-sponsor and pass H.R. 1516/S.1013, which would create a separate benefit for complex rehab, as well as to support full funding for the Assistive Technology Act.

While stakeholders have their work cut out for them between election year politics, fewer legislative vehicles and a dwindling number of legislative days, the feedback from the meetings has been positive, says Clayback.

“The meetings went very well and we expect to see a significant increase in co-sponsors,” he said. “There were several members that committed on the spot and then there was a wide variety that said, ‘We definitely think we’ll be signing on, we just need to talk to our boss to verify.’”

As for whether there will be a repeat collaboration next year, organizers say they’ll have to see what makes the most sense “logistically.”

“We’ll definitely consider it,” said Mike Brogioli, executive director of RESNA. “We’re committed to a hotel in New Orleans for 2017, but we’ll certainly look at it and see what’s logistically feasible and what makes long-term sense.”