I started this year with a new adventure: lobbying. Though I had experience working in the Virginia General Assembly before, this was my first time going solo. I began lobbying work for Virginia ASPE (the Association of People Supporting Employment First) at the Virginia General Assembly.
The ASPE’s mission focuses on career advancement for people with disabilities. I worked with ASPE to fight for people with disabilities’ rights, focusing particularly on the right to have equal opportunities in the workforce. It’s incredibly important for people with disabilities to be paid fairly (disabled workers are often paid below the minimum wage) and have equal access to opportunities. People with disabilities have so much to contribute to the world, and we deserve the chance to succeed and excel in our careers.
There were a lot of changes this year: we were working with a new governor, working in a new building, and there were over a dozen new legislators. A large part of our conversations focused around Medicaid, which left less time to focus on the three budget amendments. This means we’re going to continue focusing on our budget amendments next year.
Overall, it was a great experience. I made a lot of new contacts and established relationships with legislators, legislative assistants, and administrators. In the coming months, I’m going to continue to learn some more tactics and tools to help serve ASPE, and we’ll continue the fight for equality for people with disabilities.