As a trainee in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) program, I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Conference in Washington, DC. As a first time attendee at the AUCD Conference, I was not exactly sure what to expect, but I was excited for the opportunity to expand my knowledge in issues related to disability, policy, and advocacy. I learned a lot from the scheduled events as anticipated, but I didn’t realize how much I would also learn from the diverse group of attendees at the conference.
While at the conference I was able to hear panelists discuss engaging the public in disability issues and the future of education, employment, and community living for people with disabilities. As panelist Emily Ladau stated, “The disability community is talking a lot to itself, but now we need to make disability more accessible to the community.” One method discussed involves making disability more visible and personal to community members. If people are more aware of their own relationships with individuals with disabilities then they will be more invested in disability issues. I found this discussion to be especially interesting because it had many parallels to the awareness that is needed for genetic conditions and related genetics issues in the community. Besides hearing from the panelists, various sessions reiterated to me the importance of genetic counselors communicating and promoting awareness about genetic conditions in the community and to other disciplines. I even gained some ideas for engaging diverse stakeholders to achieve this goal.
Overall, attending the 2014 AUCD Conference was a wonderful opportunity to better understand the current practices and policies that affect the healthcare and well-being of people with disabilities, as well as to learn what disability policy might look like in the future. This conference also inspired me to become more involved in advocating for individuals with disabilities and genetic conditions in the future. A remarkable group of individuals attended the AUCD Conference and I am honored to have been among them.
--Caitlin Campbell, Second Year Student