Bishop champions rights of individuals with disabilities

Aaron Bishop, MSSW '00
Commissioner, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Aaron Bishop began working in the field of developmental disabilities when he was a master’s student, as a trainee in the Waisman Center’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program. He worked across the disability community on several projects with the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Bishop later moved to Washington D.C. to work on federal disability policy and legislation for the U.S. Senate. He then worked for the National Council on Disability (NCD) before starting his current position as commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Though Bishop says he followed an atypical path to where he is now, he gained a variety of work experiences from which to draw a depth and breadth of knowledge in the field.



Video Transcript:


So my name is Aaron Bishop. I am the commissioner for the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities within the Administration for Community Living at the Department of Health and Human Services.


I was originally inspired to become a social worker based upon conversations with my aunt. My undergraduate degrees were in bacteriology and genetics, from the university, and I was trained as a researcher and I was conducting research in various labs, but I realized that it wasn’t my passion and what I wanted to do long-term. And my aunt said, “Do what you love,” which is working with people. And therefore I decided to pursue a degree in social work.


My social work education was invaluable, and I don’t want to say more so, but it was really helpful when I worked on the Hill for seven years. Working on pieces of legislation and really keeping the person in the center, and having that person-centeredness and realizing that the person lives within the environment – so not only are you focusing on the individual but you’re looking at what are the inputs, what are the outputs, and how that influences a person’s life was very helpful to think of the broad picture and the broad perspective. And then, again, that has influenced my work at NCD as well as at AIDD, but specifically, on the Hill, having that perspective was unique and necessary.


My advice to students – and whenever I go out and give talks and meet with students, whether it’s in social work or other LEND trainees, you know, whatever the case may be – my message is to be flexible. We get into a program and we think we know exactly what we want to do. I want to do policy. I want to focus on clinical. And we pigeonhole ourselves and we don’t understand, then, how the two are interconnected, and so we need to have that breadth and that understanding of the whole so that we can know how we can really influence and advocate for individuals within our specific niche. So it’s being flexible and it’s being willing to work in different areas to try different things and, again, you may – because you may not know where you’re going to end up at the end of the day. So just be open. Be flexible.

Last edited by karnaky on Friday, June 12, 2015 | Printer Friendly Version