Before we know it, the legislative session will be here. With a February 12 session start, there may feel like we have a bit more time to get bills ready. But it never seems to happen that way, does it?
Committees have been meeting for some time. Disability advocacy groups have agendas ready or have those lists in the works.
So what can you do to get involved?
Just as there are a lot of disabilities, there are also many, many disability-focused issues at the capitol. The multi-organization group lobbyists scramble to stay on top of everything at the start of session, so think of how daunting it can be for a layperson. There’s no way most of us can follow every single issue, important as they all are.
Here’s a way to look at this:
If you or a family member have a specific disability focus or focuses in your life, think about what could happen at the capitol that would make your life better. Maybe you need ASL interpretation to be more widely available.
Maybe you need to have more accessible playgrounds available.
Perhaps your child’s school has created barriers during the IEP process.
Maybe you as an adult cannot find accessible, affordable housing. (I myself am having that issue as I try to stay in the area where I have lived for more than 40 years. Wish me luck!)
It’s a good idea to hone in on an issue or a few issues that are important to you, and then go from there.
The next step is to find the advocacy group that is working on issues important to you. (It can be more than one group.) Find their websites, do some reading and see how you can get involved. Can you write a letter? Can you tell your story to someone else who can write it down or shoot a video for you?
Can you make a phone call or send an email to your state senator or representative? (Keep in mind that elected officials get waves of emails before and during session, so you ,may not get a personal answer.)
Does the advocacy group you are working with or want to work with offer training prior to or during session? These trainings can be valuable and answer your questions about being an effective advocate. Many people have gained skills and confidence, and made new friends and connections. Sessions don’t take a lot of time, and support is offered.
Can you gain the skills to testify before a legislative committee about an issue? I often tell young people that while we don’t always use those basketball team or dance line skills after high school, I have always used my contest speech and drama skills. Learning to present an issue, and speak from the heart, can serve a person for a lifetime.
I’ve worked for Access Press for a long time, and have watched many people grow into effective advocacy roles, for themselves or for their families. Our community always needs more of you.
A reminder: We’re taking a break from online web posts and my blog over the holiday break. May you enjoy the season.