Kayla Mckeon is the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome. Her job on Capitol Hill gives her independence and she is pushing US politicians to help others too.
“I make personal connections, tell personal stories,” said McKeon, 30, who works for the District-based National Down Syndrome Society. “It’s hard for them to say no.”
McKeon is a New York native and has already shown her lobbying skills by helping a bill get signed into law in December. The law allows people with disabilities to save greater amounts of money without penalty to their Medicaid benefits. She said that walking around persuading lawmakers to do right by people she calls “differently abled” is both exhilarating and humbling.
“I feel the power. And how amazing it feels, just knowing I’m on Capitol Hill. And I get to talk to people that can help me enact laws.” Says Kayla, “Being a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, I don’t realize how many lives I touch. This is why I love being a role model for other… me being in Washington D.C. is just beyond every expectation I could ever dream of. I love my job. This has always been my dream and I’m following my dream.
McKeon’s biggest advantage is that she can explain the trials of the disabled straight from her heart. The next one is that nothing intimidates her since she’s been giving motivational speeches at the Special Olympics since she was eighteen. Her favourite phrase is: “I’m ready, willing and able.”
She started her part-time lobbying job in October, advocating for laws that protect the rights of disabled people while making independent living easier for adults like her. She is also taking classes toward her associate degree at Onondaga Community College in Central New York.
“I’m good at being a self-advocate, of letting myself be heard,” she said. For now, McKeon is proud of her work and of helping others as the first lobbyist with Down syndrome. “I feel like I’m making a huge difference and I’m making history.”
Disability is not inability. Such a small statement yet very powerful! We should not let what we see as shortcomings define who we are but rather soar above the circumstance and triumph. #Rewordit