Consumers on a roll in DC


Pictured here: Roll on Capitol Hill attendees Mindy Van Kuren and Kesha Pilot, standing wheelchair user, both from Arkansas, attend a meeting with Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and United Spinal CEO Paul Tobin. Notice the excellent representation of United Spinal's signature color, orange.

I’m sure you guys were following the progress of the second Roll on Capitol Hill along with me on Twitter this week as more than 80 consumers hit the Hill to promote the CRT bills and other issues affecting the disability community. I also got the scoop afterwards from Alex Bennewith, VP of government relations for United Spinal.

The big news: Consumers doubled their number of Capitol Hill visits to 200 up from 100 at last year’s first-ever Roll on Capitol Hill. 

HME-related issues got a good reception during Hill visits, says Bennewith.

“We got some verbal commitments on CRT and bidding as well as on some other issues,” she said. 

Besides doubling the Hill visits, another big change this year was a push toward social media. My Twitter feed this week was full of #ROCH2013 as participants tweeted comments and photos about the keynote session, Hill visits and the event in general. 

Bennewith says embracing social media is key for events like this. 

“That’s how our advocates like to communicate with each other,” she said. 

There were a lot of new faces on the Hill joining last year’s attendees, and Bennewith says she hopes it’ll be bigger and better next year. It’s important for consumers to get out there and advocate, she said.

“By participating in the Roll on Capitol Hill, consumers realize they have a voice,” she said. “They feel empowered. It’s important that they realize that just by speaking out, they can help make their situation better.”

It seems that the consumers who attended this year got that message. 

Bryan McCormick, who visited the Hill from Pennsylvania, said:

“The greatest benefit to me is that it has educated me on the political process and important issues that could impact persons with disabilities. I now want to be more engaged with my local government because I realize that it can enable me to have an impact on the lives of others. ROCH has empowered me, so I can now disseminate that education to my group members and peers, which will enable them to influence legislation that could affect them. This has been a life changing experience. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this group.”

Whether it’s educating consumers about their own power or educating lawmakers about what’s needed for wheelchair users to truly access their communities, Bennewith says the event was a success.

“The whole point is to make the consumer voice louder, to make sure that voice is heard,” she said. “I think we accomplished that this year.”