I am a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

September 6, 2017 | Erika Hudson, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

I am not a writer, I am a talker. I find it a lot easier to express how I feel by mouth rather than pen and paper, or keyboard rather. It is even harder for me to put into words how I feel about the AAPD summer internship program. To say I was excited about the opportunity to be an Intern with the American Association of People with Disabilities is an understatement. Full disclosure, this was the third time I had applied – I was excited. I knew that the AAPD had a great internship program.  I would be able to live in Washington DC.  I would be able to meet new people from across the country. I would be able to intern on the Hill, but as I am approaching my finals days here with the AAPD, I reflect on so much more. It has been an extraordinary summer, and let me tell you why:

First let me tell you about the people – wow. My fellow 2017 AAPD summer interns are some of the most extraordinary young disability advocates that I have had the pleasure of getting to know this summer. More importantly, they are extraordinary humans. I got the chance to hear their stories and learn who they are. I got the chance to get to know these people and I hope to continue to know these people for years to come. I can’t wait to see them rule the world one day and change the lives of so many. I do not think my fellow interns will ever know how grateful I am for all of their support this summer.

The different experiences I had are almost as fantastic as the people. I walked through the halls of the Capitol-and I got lost, a lot. I attended congressional hearings and markups on topics that way went way over my head. I met prominent leaders in the disability community from across the world. I ate cupcakes and ice cream as often as I could, DC has a fantastic cupcake selection. I went to our national monuments on nights when the sky resembled the American flag. I participated in rallies and marches on issues I was passionate about. I went to countless museums learning and growing in so many ways. I got caught in several rainstorms, never learning the simple art of bringing an umbrella-always back an umbrella.

Now the big one-what I learned this summer. I learned to be unapologetically proud to be me. I learned that we are all fighting for the same rights, but we choose to do so in different ways. I learned that the disability community is strong and is powerful-I already knew this, but this summer we reached new heights.  I learned that the disability community has come far, but we have a long way to go. I am proud and disabled, and I am excited to continue to stand with my peers and do what we do best.

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Erika Hudson is a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern. This summer she interned for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Democratic Staff.

Dear D.C.

August 14, 2017 | Nermina Aly, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

As I leave you, I would like to reminiscence about my time here and what led me to you in the first place.

They say that rewarding experiences are bred through stepping outside of your comfort zone. This summer, I did just that. I was not sure what to expect when I was accepted into the AAPD internship program not to mention interning on your most famous hill–Capitol Hill. Instead of thinking about the what if’s, I closed my eyes and sooner than I knew it I was in our nation’s capital working in the heart of politics. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for Zach Baldwin and AAPD.

My appreciation for AAPD goes back to last July when I was applying for scholarships to help pay for my college tuition. It was during the phone interview for the scholarship that I had my first correspondence with Zach—I did not know it at the time but that would be the first of many interactions (all delightful) with him. Receiving the 2016 Tony Coehlo Media Scholarship was life changing, yet little did I know that the next summer, my life would change again.

I remember first hearing about the summer internship program during my phone interview for the Tony Coehlo award and it was inconceivable to me and beyond my wildest dreams that I would ever be interning here exactly one year later.

Fast forward to now—I am nearing the end of my internship and time here and this summer has been the most rewarding time in my life. Not only did I get to explore the splendor of what you have to offer—history, breathtaking architecture, museums, etc., but I had the blessing to learn more about myself and immerse myself within the disability community.

I want to thank Zach and AAPD for truly giving me the summer of a lifetime. AAPD ensures the creation of future disability advocacy leaders through keeping the interns busy all summer. The weekly events, optional and mandatory were extremely informational and gave all of the interns a chance to network with leaders in the disability community including Ted Kennedy Jr, the Board Chair of AAPD. Personally for me, the highlight was the annual ADA event, celebrating the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the legislation that has forever changed the disability community, giving equal rights to millions who have lived their lives being discriminated against. Although we have a long way to go, the ADA has been around for longer than I’ve been alive, and I can only hope more disability friendly legislation gets passed in the years to come.

Overall, I would not take this summer back for anything! Thank you to every single person I’ve had the pleasure to meet this summer and a special thanks goes out to Susan Diegelman, my AAPD mentor, and Zach and Helena for making this all possible.

You’ve been great to me D.C.! Until we meet again!

Yours Truly,



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Nermina Aly is a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern placed with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Nermina authored an earlier blog post – My First Month in DC.

The Health Cost of Fighting For Healthcare

August 10, 2017 | Emily Kovalesky, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

In July, there was a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As an AAPD Intern placed in the United States Senate I could not have been more in the thick of things when the vote took place. Because of the possible repeal and replace, repeal only, and skinny bill many people faced losing insurance coverage, increased costs, and loss of Medicaid. The energy that week was intense. I was surrounded by protesters, friends, colleagues, and more. I was going in to work early and leaving late. I brought pizzas to ADAPTers camping out. I attended the NCIL rally on the Capitol lawn. I attended the ADA Anniversary press conference that 4 senators spoke at. I watched debates in the senate gallery until 11pm and then stayed up until 2am the night of the actual vote. I did everything I could to try to make a difference in the fight for healthcare. I still am because I know the fight is not over, just on temporary slowdown. Because of this, my body is in a highly sensitive state.

What people don’t tell you is how tiring it is from a disability standpoint. The people fighting for their lives are the people who do not necessarily have the energy to be doing so. For some people in the office it was just another day of chaos, maybe a little more emotional than usual. For the other interns in my senate office it was just an exciting week to be working. For me…it was draining, exhausting, mostly depressing, but mandatory. I could not sit back and take in the moments as an important political debate. I had to be as involved as possible because, not only my care but, many of my closest friends and allies’ care was on the line. Being involved and fighting for what I need meant using up energy that my body didn’t necessarily have. As someone with chronic health conditions, including genetic and autoimmune disorders, my body does not necessarily take well to being pushed. But, when you are fighting for your rights, you have to push. Everyone that week was pushing. People I know who were in the same health state as me, pushed to their limit. This included both physical and mental health limits. Despite limits being crossed, people had no choice but to keep fighting and face the consequences from their body later on. It is quite ironic that some faced requiring more medical care because of the fear of losing their medical care. Rights should not come at the cost of health. Healthcare rights should definitely not come at the cost of health.


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Emily Kovalesky is a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern placed with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

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