Sean Sokler
English: Advanced Composition
September 22, 2003

Interview with Daniel Davis, National Council on Independent Living

My goal, after graduation from George Mason, is to work in some capacity to advocate for or to assist people with disabilities.  During a past summer, in fact, I worked as an intern for such an advocacy organization, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).  I therefore decided to interview a young policy analyst at NCIL, Daniel Davis.

The NCIL is the oldest cross disability grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities.  Founded in 1982, NCIL represents over 700 organizations and individuals, including Centers for Independent Living, Statewide Independent Living Councils, individuals with disabilities, and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.

Because of my disabilities, I had to conduct the interview somewhat differently.  I had to write out my interview questions beforehand.  I then e-mailed them to Daniel, who sent me back his answers.  My questions were designed to find out more about NCIL and its objectives, what Daniel did in his job, how he got his job, what additional training Daniel wished he had had, and how someone like me should go about preparing for such a job.

In response to my question, Daniel indicated that NCIL's objectives are to further the full integration and participation of people with disabilities in society.  To do so, they support increased funding for independent living centers and advocate community-based support and services for persons with disabilities.  NCIL actively defends the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights protections for people with disabilities.

Daniel is a policy analyst at NCIL.  He does most of the research and writing for NCIL's publications, including the Weekly Advocacy Monitor (WhAM).  He also tracks public policy and legal developments of concern to persons with disabilities, particularly regarding issues selected as NCIL priorities.  He does extensive online research, consults with policy experts in other disability advocacy organizations and attends hearing on Capitol Hill.

Daniel thinks his greatest accomplishment is the WhAM publications.  Many people have told him that they find WhAM very helpful in keeping up with issues and figuring out how to approach issues, and Daniel finds that helping people to help even more people is very rewarding work.

When I asked him how he got involved in this job, Daniel indicated that he had been a history student at Berkeley.  While there, he was the Vice President of Advocacy of the Disabled Students' Union, where he worked to promote funding for disabled student services and to air grievances of disabled students.  Coming to the Washington office of NCIL was a natural progression.

When asked how I could prepare to work as an advocate for the disabled, Daniel suggested that I research the issues and identify an issue that I could speak to and make a difference.  He also suggested networking, finding a mentor, and serving an internship, fellowship, or other short-term job.  In response to my question as to what he might have done to better prepare himself for his job, Daniel thought maybe he also should have done a Capitol Hill internship.

I thought my interview went well as David provided me thoughtful and useful responses to my questions.  I think it gave me a better feel for the type of advocacy activity I would consider.  There is an obvious limitation to sending a list of questions and not being able to follow up on the answers.  However, since it takes so much time for me to spell out everything, for this assignment, I thought this was the efficient and polite way to proceed.