Assistive Technology Matters: Gathering in Washington, D.C. to inform legislators

US_CapitolIt was a busy day in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 22. And not only because it was the day that Senate Republicans shared their version of a healthcare reform bill. Although that certainly added to the political atmosphere. πŸ™‚

AgrAbility PA joined the National AgrAbility Project for a day of informing legislators, staffers, and legislative aides about assistive technology and the important and necessary role it plays in the everyday lives of people with a disability or long-term health condition. That includes farmers, agricultural workers, and ranchers across the country!

As many said, “It’s not a want. It’s a need. Technology matters.”

The event held at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill was sponsored by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). It is a coalition of more than 100 national disability organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment,Β  integration, and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.

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U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, of PA’s 5th district

Several legislators visited the event to offer words of encouragement and ensure support from Congress, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey and U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III, both of Massachusetts, and U.S. Representative Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, who is the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, serving since 2009. He represents Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Huntingdon, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Venango, and Warren counties in Pennsylvania. Rep. Thompson specifically called out AgrAbility as an example of a program that has had and continues to have a significant impact on those who work in the agricultural industry — an industry of critical importance in a state like Pennsylvania.

IMG_2666.JPGA panel consisting of consumers and their families shared personal stories about how assistive technology has impacted their lives in so many ways — from a mother sharing about her daughter born with cerebral palsy to a young man who was the victim of a violent attack that left him paralyzed. All emphasized the importance of access to assistive technology.

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Dr. Connie Baggett, Paul Jones, and Kendra Martin (left to right)

AgrAbility PA staff Dr. Connie Baggett, project director, and Kendra Martin, outreach coordinator, joined National AgrAbility Project staff member Paul Jones at a booth to share information on assistive technology related to agriculture — from ergonomic gardening tools to automated doors and lifts — and how it greatly benefits farmers with mobility impairments, joint injuries, arthritis, and other conditions.

Several organizations representing the field of assistive technology were in attendance, including Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT). PIAT strives to enhance the lives of all Pennsylvanians with disabilities, older Pennsylvanians, and their families through access to and acquisition of assistive technology devices and services, which allow for choice, control, and independence at home, work, school, play, and in their neighborhoods. Kim Singleton, director of assistive technology programs, was on-hand to answers questions and demonstrate a new piece of robot technology guided by a smart phone for the home.

Many thanks to Perkins School for the Blind, RESNA, National Disability Rights Network, Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, and American Foundation for the Blind for their leadership in organizing the event.

About AgrAbility PA

AgrAbility PA assists farmers and agricultural workers with disabilities or long-term health conditions by linking them to potential resources and by providing support they need to live independently and continue working in or return to production agriculture.

AgrAbility PA is a statewide partnership between Penn State Extension and UCP Central PA in support of a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn more about AgrAbility PA by visiting http://www.AgrAbilityPA.org, calling (814) 867-5288, emailing AgrAbility@psu.edu, or searching @AgrAbilityPA on social media.

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