Getting Off the Ground: My Experience Working in Government Affairs

November 13, 2018 | Shiven Patel, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern

This past summer I worked as an intern with American Airlines in Government Affairs through the AAPD Summer Internship Program. The Government Affairs team at American is basically the lobbying team for the airline; if there was any bill on the Hill that was of any concern to the airline, our team would go lobby in favor of the airline’s position on that bill.

I have loved aviation ever since I can remember. Additionally, I am also in the middle of my second year of law school. So an internship working in Government Affairs for the world’s largest airline was perfect for me. I must say that when I began working for the airline, even as an aviation enthusiast, I didn’t quite understand how much it takes to get one of our airplanes off of the ground. As I started working, I began to realize that complex legal issues can impact day-to-day operations significantly. For example, this summer we had an immigration issue in our office where our federal government had a policy that was separating children from their families at the border. When these children were separated at the border, the government would use American’s airplanes to transport these children. I remember that day very well; everyone in my office was talking about this issue. A decision needed to be made. Our Vice President of Government Affairs had a statement issued that requested the federal government to not use our commercial planes to transport these children. Several airlines followed suit afterward. The following day, President Trump decided to stop this immigration policy. I felt proud to be directly involved with a major issue that was happening in Washington this summer.

Additionally, another legal issue that I had to research was the issue of allowing untrained emotional support animals on our aircraft. As an airline, we understood that there are people who need to have these animals on the aircraft. However, the issue that we were facing was that we’ve had several instances where untrained animals have caused harm to other passengers by biting them. The most important thing to anyone who works in the aviation industry is the safety of our passengers. If allowing untrained animals onboard the aircraft poses a safety risk to our passengers, then it is up to us as an airline to review those policies and find a solution that does not compromise the safety of our passengers.

These are just some of the many legal issues that I have had the opportunity to work on this summer. The experience of working for the airline this summer was a 23-year-old dream that AAPD made come true. I feel like my experience working with American Airlines has helped me to understand that even issues that may seem small or unimportant can affect the entire operation of us transporting thousands of passengers every day. What that taught me was, that as a future attorney, you should always treat any issue, whether it seems big or small, with the utmost of importance — because you never know how that issue will affect your work down the line.


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Shiven Patel is a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. He interned in the Government Affairs office of American Airlines.

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).

My First Month in DC

July 31, 2017 | Nermina Aly, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

“D.C. is going to be an amazing experience for you Nermina.” This is what friends and family would tell me when I would share the news with them that I was accepted into the AAPD internship program. I never quite understood why they would say this. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to start this chapter of my life in a new city, but maybe it hadn’t hit me yet that I would have the time of my life and learn a great deal about the disability community. Well, now I know what they meant.

It has been a month since coming to Washington D.C. and honestly I never felt more free. I may have to do with the fact that I am in the Capitol of the free world. It may also have to do with the fact that I have been immersing myself in the large disability community here and learning that the ADA is only the beginning—this community has come far, yet we are no where near the light at the end of the tunnel.

In this time in our nation’s history, it is to no ones surprise that there is a great divide in our country’s beliefs and values. A topic that is very near and dear to my heart since my exposure to the disability community and interning in a democratic office is the AHCA. D.C. has been an invaluable experience mostly due to the fact that I am getting to interning for one of my heroes and a very loved figure in the disability community, Senator Tammy Duckworth.

Working in in the press pit, I am witnessing the Senator speaking out against the bill and chance she gets—a true inspiration for all people with disabilities. Moreover, as a press intern, working in a political environment has opened up my interest in politics and policy making in ways I could not imagine. Simply just living and working in the nation’s capitol means that you are in the heart and center of all the politics and legislation that serve as the foundation of this great nation-whether good or bad.

Also, working in a Senator’s office daily, I am reminded of the consequences that Trump Care would cause to 50 Million Americans with disabilities who rely on Medicare and preventive care measures to live their lives as healthy as they can be. As this whole debacle is put on pause for a little while, I can feel the tension on the hill easing up a little bit. Personally I think to myself, what can I do—I am but a measly intern after all—the bottom of the political food chain. What must be done? Although I am an intern, I feel as if I am playing my part. I have attended two rallies, answered constituent phone calls, and am constantly speaking out against the injustices facing those who are disabled while empowering my friends and family to do the same. Spread the word through social media; I believe in the power of a group of people fighting against a common cause. The ADAPT demonstration is just one example of how the efforts that the disability community is engaging in to help ensure that such a detrimental bill is never passed. I will make the most of my time here in D.C. learning what I can, having a little fun from time to time, and being an advocate for this disability community. People were right all along, D.C. had been an “amazing experience” but more than that, it has greatly intensified a dim political flame in me that I have been carrying for a while now.

Now that I have a scorching flame running throughout my veins, I will stand up and fight. The question is, will you?


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Nermina Aly is a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern placed with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

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