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Ramped My Voice for Social Work Month 2014!

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Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to discuss the plight of people with disabilities, and the importance of advocacy for Social Work Month 2014.  I was a presenter at the 2014 NASW-SC Chapter Spring Symposium in Columbia, SC.  Social Work Month is observed during the month of March, and each year has a selected theme.  This year’s theme is:  “All People Matter,” and from the various presentation topics that were selected, that theme was very alive and well throughout the 3 days of the conference.

Presentation Cover ImageThe Spring Symposium was the first social work conference I attended post-graduate school, and the first presentation as a macro-minded social worker who is a disability rights consultant and advocate.  I was not sure what to expect, but I was open to everything the conference had to offer.  It was incredible to meet my fellow social work colleagues throughout the Palmetto state who are passionate about the populations they worked and advocated for as I am about the rights of those with disabilities.  Being able to discuss the work that I am spearheading was validating; the passion and drive I had shone brighter than the sun, and those to whom I share my aspirations with were receptive to my mission.  I was able to connect with a few people who were interested in my work, and I have begun reaching out to them regarding the knowledge they are willing to share that can assist me in what I am doing with RYV!

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The session description that was in the conference booklet.  (Click to enlarge)

Me at PresentationOn presentation day, I was eager to get ‘er done!  I started planning and prepping for that moment when I received the notice about being selected as a presenter in early December 2013.  I knew that I wanted to provide a general overview of what people with disabilities experience, and how social workers can become involved in the disability advocacy moment.  For my presentation, I talked about the following subjects:

  • Disability Prevalence (Knowing the stats of the disability community)

  • Evolution of the Term “Disability,” which included the historical treatment people with disabilities endured

  • Barriers that Affect the Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in America

  • Key Disability Rights Legislation (I gave an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Rehabilitation Act)

  • The Devastating Effects of Budgets Cuts of 2013 on the Federal and State Levels

  • The Issue of People of Color with Disabilities being an Invisible Group in the Disability Community, and the Unique Barriers They Faced, and

  • The Ardent Connect Between Advocacy and Social Work, and the Ways Social Workers Can Become Involved on the Micro and Macro Levels of the Disability Advocacy Moment

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The one page handout my attendees received.

It was great to see the attendees at my presentation participate in the group activity, and being so attentive and responsive throughout the whole hour and a half.  For the group activity, I asked them to list the stereotypes and prejudices people with disabilities endure in America.  I also asked them to ponder the idea of privilege – do people with disabilities have privilege, and if so, what does that look like.  Both parts of the activity received great participation by the group.  It was a great opener into the discussion about the public perception of those with disabilities, which is still a prevalent barrier.

Stereotypes

My attendees listed the stereotypes & prejudices that PWDs endure in our society.

Privileges

The attendees listed the privileges they believed PWDs to have.

Being allowed to provide an overview on the topic of disability, and share what led me to create Ramp Your Voice!, was an empowering experience for myself, both as a professional and as a fellow self-advocate.  To share my story and my vision with my colleagues was an experience that not many have so early in their career.  Needless to say, I am eager to conduct more presentations for helping professionals, educators, and other fields who work tiredlessly to demand, enforce, and eliminate challenges, and create a more inclusive society.  Social Work Month 2014 will always be remembered the one that I was able to RAMP MY VOICE about why people with disabilities matter!

(Featured headline image:  Courtesy of NASW.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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