NCART and NRRTS have announced that this year’s Congressional Fly-In will take place virtually,
as it did last year. Once again, stakeholders throughout the industry will spend the day
advocating for improved access to Complex Rehab Technology (CRT). This year, thanks to
support from event sponsors, participants can take part free of charge, right from their homes
or offices… or, as NCART Associate Director Mickae Lee has pointed out, from anywhere else
that has a good Internet connection.

I participated last year, and while a virtual format might seem less empowering than meeting
with Congressional staffers, Members of Congress, and Senators in person — that’s absolutely
not true. I’ve advocated on Capitol Hill in person, and I got the same adrenaline rush from our
virtual meetings that I got when in Congressional offices. It’s amazing to be part of the
democratic process, in person but also via teleconference.

Here are four observations from last year’s event… and why I’ve already signed up to
participate in 2022.

1. You’re the Talent!
At the Fly-In, your role is to share your experiences and perspective… not to get bogged down
by the multitude of logistical details required to run an event like this.
When you sign up, the Capitol Hill event specialists partnering with NCART and NRRTS springs
into action. Based on my ZIP code, they determined my Congressional Representative (Katie
Porter) and set up that virtual meeting for me, along with meetings with the offices of both
California Senators.

I attended the (virtual) orientation meeting and the (virtual) getting-to-know-you meeting with
the California team: Molly Hale, Jeramy Hale, Joel Marich (Numotion), and Lew Shomer
(Abilities Expo). Those meetings were planned for us, as were our Capitol Hill appointments.
On Fly-In day, I got dressed up in my Capitol Hill outfit (meeting attire on top, but fuzzy slippers
on my feet), kept a few notes at hand, and joined the virtual meetings via my laptop. We CRT
folks joined a couple of minutes early so we’d all be present when the Washington, D.C., folks
arrived on screen.

That’s it. There’s plenty of support (tech and otherwise) on Fly-In day so that if something
comes up — for example, one of our meetings was rescheduled on Fly-In day — the event
planner notified us and handled the logistical changes.

When you sign up for the Fly-In, you’re there to share your experiences. You’re not expected to
do any work in the background. So participating couldn’t have been easier. I had plenty of time between meetings to eat lunch, refill my tea mug, check e-mail, etc.

(2) You’re Part of a Team
In last year’s California delegation, we had the wonderful husband-and-wife team of Jeramy
and Molly Hale, giving their perspectives as caregiver and wheelchair rider, respectively. Joel
Marich from Numotion spoke from the provider perspective. Lew Shomer, the Abilities Expos
Chairman, also has many years of experience working with consumers and families who use
assistive technology.

Me? Uh, I’m a magazine editor…?

During our practice meeting, we introduced ourselves and sorted out what and how each of us
could contribute. Molly and Jeramy are advocacy and event veterans, and we quickly agreed
they would take the lead. Joel knows the technology side of CRT and how it can improve client
function, as well as the funding and policy challenges that can prevent people from efficiently
accessing the seating and wheelchairs they need to be as independent and safe as possible. Lew
knows the technology side as well, having hosted manufacturers at Abilities Expos for years, but
he also has hosted consumers and families for years, so he’s familiar with what they want and

Given those impressive résumés, I wasn’t sure what I could contribute.
But as we all talked it through, I found my niche. As a reporter writing about the CRT industry, I
don’t have your first-hand experiences. But you’ve told me about the challenges you face every
day. You’ve told me what policy changes would help get seating or mobility orders delivered
more quickly, or how powered seating, for example, can improve outcomes.
So that’s what I shared in our meetings. If you are part of the CRT industry, you absolutely have
experiences, customer stories and examples to share (while maintaining confidentiality as
needed, of course).

In our California delegation, we were practically finishing each other’s sentences after the first
couple of meetings. Every viewpoint is needed, everyone is valuable, but you are never alone in
these meetings.

(3) Congress (and Congressional Staffers) Are People, Too
You might feel intimidated by the thought of meeting with people who work on Capitol Hill. I
sure was. But it turns out — they’re just people, too. The staffers we met with last year were uniformly polite and professional. They showed up on time, and they listened to what we said. Sure, some were naturally more chatty than others. But all of them seemed thoughtful as we spoke, and
they asked good questions.

NCART and NRRTS provided and explained our main talking points for our meetings, and they’ll
do that again this year. For example, Medicare coverage for power seat elevation and standing
is going to be a hot topic this summer, as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
reconsiders its reimbursement policies and as (we anticipate) the public comment period opens
in August.

Keep in mind that you are constituents. You’re voters from their districts and states. It’s their
job to listen to you. And 2022 is an election year, so maybe they’ll be even more eager to listen
this time through.

(4) You Can Make a Difference in Just One Day
Washington, D.C., is a long way from my California home. An in-person Fly-In would consume
three days on my calendar.

The virtual Fly-In gives me the chance to advocate for CRT in just one work day, plus a couple of
pre-event meetings (scheduled late in the day to avoid interfering with workday obligations).
And this year, it’s not even costing me a registration fee.
Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. We won’t get all our “asks” by the end of the Fly-In. But
we never know which conversation or networking opportunity will be the one to advance this
industry’s most pressing causes.

I can’t think of an easier opportunity than this one. If you’re new to advocacy, sign up knowing
that you’ll have a team to support you. If you’re a pro at this, sign up knowing that all the back-
office work will be done for you. If you’re not sure what you could contribute, sign up knowing
that NCART and NRRTS folks are happy to answer your questions and brainstorm with you.
If you’ve ever had a client whose life has been made better by seating or wheeled mobility, tell
that story at the Fly-In. If you’ve ever had a client unable to get life-changing technology, that’s
also a story you can tell at the Fly-In.

Think of a few people you’ve helped or wanted to help, those clients and families whose stories
stick with you. Picture them. Jot down a few notes about their experiences. Then visit and sign up for the Fly-In to make a difference.

-Laurie Watanabe; Mobility Management Editor and California CRT Advocate