Last week, Ridge Policy Group, a top DC lobbying firm, celebrated with their client, the National Organization on Disability (NOD), 40 years of success. This celebration featured well-known speakers, including Michael Smerconish, I. King Jordan, Judy Huemann, Michele Buck, and many more. Friends and activists across the disability community gathered at the beautiful 101 Constitution building to honor Governor Ridge and his Chairmanship.
Starting at 2:30PM and running till 8:30PM, this event had it all. Opening with an hour-long sponsorship reception, where speakers and sponsors had the opportunity to gather, take pictures, and catch up before the inspiring day. After everyone settled in, the group of more than 300 people moved down to the lower level of 101 Constitution to enjoy an address from NOD CEO Carol Glazer, two roundtable discussions, and a personal story from Hershey’s Senior Vice President and Chief of Human Resources, Chis Scalia.
During the annual forum that took place in the lower-level, attendees had the opportunity to hear from many predominant members of the community, with a focus on acknowledging how far we have come but still looking forward to the future. Two roundtable discussions took place, labeled “Honoring the Disability Rights Movement” and “Focusing on the Future with Innovators of the ADA Generation.” NOD accomplished their goal. The first roundtable was emceed by the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, I. King Jordan. Sitting on the panel to help reflect was Judy Huemann, a disability rights leader; Day Al- Mohamed, Disability Program Director for the Whitehouse Domestic Policy Council; Marc Moral, President and CEO of the National Urban League; and Taryn Mackenzie Williams, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy. Each of these distinguished advocates and leaders presented and spoke passionately about the accomplishments that have been achieved to help better the disability community move forward. All of these legends of the community provided advice and guidance for the future of disability activists.
Featured in the second roundtable was a group of young activists that are making waves to push the future of disability activism. This panel was composed of Andrea Jennings, founder of Shifting Creative Paradigms; Ayelet Winer, Accessibility Manager of T-Mobile; Petr Kucheravyy Senior Accessibility Manager at Spectrum; Xian Horn, founder of Give Beauty Wings; and Jessica Riestra, youth organizer at the Foundation on Independent Living Center and YO! Each panelist gave background on what propelled them into the field of disability advocacy and explained what their future goals for bettering the community. They highlighted how the pandemic and the past few years have pushed the world into a new understanding of accessibility and how this has benefited the community. It was great to hear how far we’ve come and to see where we are going.
Between the two roundtables, Hershey’s Chris Scalia presented a personal story that focused on the importance of self-reflection and inclusion. As Chief Human Resource Officer, Mr. Scalia is responsible for ensuring that all employees are comfortable and accounted for. He was open about his approach to the disability community. Stating that he knew that not everyone felt comfortable coming forward to identify their disability, he did some self-reflection and discovered he wasn’t being open about his struggles with mental disabilities and realized he too was part of this community. Recognizing his circumstances and opening up about it in front of the crowd was a heartfelt moment. This proved just how important it is to recognize we are all partners in this, and we all have the ability to impact change.
Finally, everyone gathered on the stunning rooftop to enjoy drinks, dinner, and a program to celebrate Governor Ridge and his career-long commitment to the disability community. It was a perfect night to enjoy one of DCs greatest views of the Capitol dome. An orange sunset cast a beautiful light over the attendees as they ate, drank, and listened to the closing program that highlighted and honored Governor Tom Ridge.
Opening remarks were presented by CEO of NOD, Carol Glazer, who highlighted the rewarding work and dedication NOD has done under the Chairmanship of Governor Ridge. She then turned the mic over to CNN commentator and Sirius XM host Michael Smerconish. He mapped out his storied history of friendship with and admiration for Governor Ridge. Then the mic was handed off to the man of the hour, Governor Ridge. He would go on to reflect how honored he was to have served as chair of NOD. It was a fantastic way to bookend such a long period of activism. It was a wonderful night that brought so many amazing people together. Ridge Policy Group was honored to participate and support by securing speakers and attendees.
Ridge Policy Group, a top government affairs firm, is proud to represent a client like NOD. This was a well-deserved 40th anniversary celebration. Their work ignites change that impacts so many people. This lasting change is a point of pride amongst anyone who has work on it. We look forward to continuing to support individuals with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities.