By: Katherine J. Searing, J.D.
The National Disability Policy Seminar: a yearly event where family, friends, professionals, politicians, and self-advocates come together to discuss issues, new and old, which affect the lives of individuals with disabilities. Issaquah natives Katie and Wil Searing were honored to be selected as the Arc of Washington representatives to this year’s seminar, and they had a lot to say, see, and do.
Wil Searing has autism and lives in an adult family home owned by the LEO organization in Issaquah, so he brings a first person perspective of many federal programs that affect his everyday life including housing, employment opportunities, and federal benefit programs. Katie Searing is a disability law attorney in Seattle practicing with the Dussault Law Group. She represents a wide variety of clients affected by disabilities and federal programs.
The Seminar is a three-day event with two days of lectures and panel discussions, and one day dedicated to “Hill visits.” Katie and Wil met with all of the Congressional delegates representing Issaquah on the federal level: Representative Dave Reichert, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell. Wil, with help from Katie, explained the importance of adult family homes in the community, employment opportunities and assistance, and educational opportunities and accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Representative Dave Reichert, who has previously visited Wil’s adult family home, agreed that education is critically important to our society. He also let Wil sit in his chair and pick up his phone. Representative Reichert let Wil know that he has talked to the President on that phone. He asked Wil what he would say to the President. Wil promptly responded with, “You rock, Obama!”
The Seminar was a great opportunity for the Searing siblings to learn about disability policy issues and how to advocate for themselves and others in the community. Wil invited Representative Reichert, Senator Cantwell, and Senator Murray and their staff to the LEO houses to learn more about his home and how they can help the disability community back at home from Washington D.C.