Tuesday, September 3, 2013

August Recess with Rep. Foxx

Bookmark and ShareEach year during Congress’ August recess, MS Activists are asked to meet locally with their member of Congress.  MS Activist Irene Burton shares her recent experience visiting with US Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC -5) with Central NC Chapter staff, Paige Dalton and Board of Trustee Paul Donohoe. 

Upon arriving at Congresswoman Foxx’s Clemmons’ office, we discovered a big step up from the top of the ramp into the building that I failed to clear in my power wheelchair.  Staffers from the Congresswoman’s office and others volunteered to lift me over the high threshold, but the weight of the chair would make this unsafe for both the lifters and me.  With some coaching and maneuvering, I eventually put the chair on the highest power and lurched over the step.

Once safely in, we began to talk to Representative Foxx about the Society’s federal priorities:  MS Research and FDA funding.  Rep. Foxx immediately interjected that while she was for smaller government, she felt that the government had a role in research.  She listened to our stories about our experiences with MS and the benefits we experienced with the disease modifying drugs.  She shared with us that she had lost sight in her right eye and that her father had lost vision.  We found common ground in a shared interest in seeing more research for a variety of diseases. She also indicated that she supported FDA funding.

We appreciated speaking with Congresswoman Foxx in the calmer atmosphere of her local office. These visits are an important step in establishing relationships with our representatives.  The pace on Capitol Hill can be frantic and visits can feel rushed when we try to make four or five visits in a single day, find the accessible entrances,  go through each building’s security and get there to learn that a vote has been called and the Member will not be able to attend.

Leaving the building was as thrilling as entering, as I went lurching over the step in reverse on high power and then had to turn the chair quickly to avoid continuing down the steps. Both Congresswoman Foxx and the management of the Historic Broyhill promised to address the threshold issue and a few weeks later a ramp was installed. While it wasn't the advocacy issue I went to address, I am glad access the building was improved.  Thanks to everyone involved. -- Irene 
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