The Future of Advocacy

With the National Forum on Disability Issues ( coming up this Friday I have been helping to plan a viewing party for the staff where I work. Between this and all of the other political happenings going on at every level I have been thinking a lot about policy and advocacy. Some very important laws and policies that improve civil rights and services for people with disabilities, and their families, have been passed in the past 40 years. Many of these improvements were put in place largely due to the tireless advocacy efforts of individuals with disabilities and their allies, who joined together to advocate for change. As we look forward to the next 40 years of change, who are the advocates that will continue to carry the torch of inclusion and civil rights? What is your center doing to be involved in training this next generation of disability advocates?

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with the new “Advocacy Specialist” at my local CIL. I and a few other folks that have been involved in advocacy and policy work for the past few years were there to help the new person get a sense of where to start. Our discussion made me think that we all have to start somewhere as advocates and that start can be made much more effective and smooth when we have a mentor and good resources to rely on.

As you work with the youth in your center to become more effective self-advocates, and advocates for disability rights, how do you approach the task? Do you use a curriculum or other standardized approach, or do you play it by ear? What has worked well for you and what resources do you recommend to help get people involved in the issues (local, state, federal)? I would love to hear what others are doing in this area. Please take a few minutes and share your thoughts.

I’ll start: here is a resource that I think is worth recommending “The Capitol Insider” put out by the ARC. This is an excellent site with a lot of information about current policy issues at the federal level and all kinds of basic advocacy information that address a wide variety of disability issues. This site has something for the seasoned policy advocate and first timers too. I particularly like the “Public Policy” link under the What We Do tab. Here is a quote from that page to give you a taste of what the site is all about:

“Effective advocacy requires knowledge of existing law, pending legislation, and the political players and processes as well as the unmet needs of constituents. Here you’ll find the information you’ll need to advocate on all issues that are critical to the intellectual and developmental disability community at the national level. Use this page as your first stop in keeping yourself informed on federal disability policy.”