Public Impact Panel Meets To Discuss Goals

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 08, 2015 # Advocacy and Policy

This past summer, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation brought together its Public Impact Panel (PIP) members for a two-day summit in New Jersey.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring these passionate community leaders together to get to grips with key issues of the community and work together to determine the most immediate and top of mind battles.

The summit started with the PIP members ranking the SCI community’s quality of life hierarchy of needs: Health, Happiness, Productivity, and Public access regarding the freedom and mobility to engage in life to the fullest.

Not being able to tackle all the issues in the community at once, the group honed in on what they felt were the two most pressing issues for the community; employment discrimination and accessibility issues (including improving ADA compliance).

In order to tackle accessibility issues, the groups committed to researching ways to incentivize businesses to become disability allies, scoring businesses on accessibility and finding ways to improve accessible parking abuse.

In order to tackle employment discrimination, they are looking into increasing awareness and mentorship about employment opportunities in the SCI community, educating employers about the realities and benefits of mobility in the workplace, and finding ways to bridge the gaps in the university system by connecting career services and disability groups.

Everyone also agreed that research towards a cure must continue. PIP embraced The Big Idea as important work and discussed the barriers to funding. To make this more urgent, it was argued that people with disabilities must be made more visible and important to society.

Rachel Patterson, Director of Public Policy for the Reeve Foundation, also shared a proposed policy agenda with the group and garnered their feedback to further hone the Reeve Foundation’s priorities specifically in Washington. These include:

Healthcare: working on creating equal access to healthcare, as well as coverage for services that are specific to those living with paralysis, including making sure that all medical offices are fully accessible.

Community: working on the civil right of getting daily living supports in the home and community.

Family: working on family caregiver support and the emerging issue of the rights of parents with disabilities.

Rehab reimbursement: as a policy priority this will include coverage for rehabilitation therapies and access to durable medical equipment.

PIP felt that ADA enforcement and transportation issues were missing from this policy agenda. The Reeve Foundation will incorporate these areas into their work and will align with others already doing great work to act as a supporting player.

During the summit, Reeve Foundation CEO, Peter Wilderotter, asked the PIP members to imagine creating a new conversation, where everything will be as they say. He encouraged them to be rigorous in their imagining solving these issues persistent in the SCI community.

As such, PIP set goals for themselves that are tough but attainable if they work hard enough as they develop new creative approaches. Watch out for updates in 2016, and stay tuned to all the ways that they have made those goals a reality.

About the Reeve Foundation Public Impact Panel (PIP)

Created as a touchstone group to bring the authentic voices of the SCI community to the Reeve Foundation. The group is currently composed of six community members who live with spinal cord injury (SCI): Jennifer Longdon, Jeff Lafond, Sabrina Cohen, Elizabeth Forst, Stephen Feldman, Alex Elegudin, and Benedict Jones. Unlike other peer discussion panels, their responsibilities are active and wide-reaching, taking on advocacy and community mobilization, driving public policy, and guiding effective messaging.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.