Advocacy and Independent Living
As we approach the 2018 midterm elections, disability advocates are continuing their work to make sure that lawmakers and policy influencers know how different issues affect people with disabilities. Advocacy is an important part of the Independent Living and Disability Rights movements, and has been since the beginning.
Individuals with disabilities are the best experts on their wants and needs, and have the right to make their own choices to fulfill those needs. If they are unable to fulfill a want or need, advocacy is the answer. An important part of advocacy, no matter if the goal is to help one person or many, is establishing a confident voice, developed and supported in a community of peer support.
There are many ways to help people with disabilities develop advocacy skills, and one of those is RTC:Rural’s Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit. The Toolkit is a collaboration between BASE, an affiliate of Summit Independent Living in Missoula, MT, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), and RTC:Rural staff, and was developed in response to the needs and interests of CILs and other stakeholders.
The toolkit materials, facilitated in a workshop format, give participants the opportunity to explore their voices, build confidence, and display their skills both verbally as well as in written form. The intent is to provide a safe space among peers and trusted facilitators to introduce the concept of both group- and self-advocacy.
The Toolkit includes a facilitator guide, worksheets, and PowerPoint slides to guide facilitators through conducting the workshop. The workshop is designed to be conducted as three 2-hour sessions or modified for different lengths of time as needed.
The Advocacy Toolkit also includes the following How-To Guides, which can be used as stand-alone resources to help individuals and groups advocate in their communities.
- Writing Effective Letters to Decision Makers
- Creating Your Personal Testimony to Influence Policy Change
- Finding and Using Data for Advocacy
There are also examples of persuasive writing and personal testimony. Other advocacy-related resources are listed in Appendix C of the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit Facilitator Guide.
Advocacy and Voting Resources
For those who want to use their advocacy skills to comment on a national or state-level issue, here are some resources that may be useful:
- American Association of People with Disabilities Voter Resource Center—REV UP Campaign Voter Resource Center
- A list of resources to help you with voter registration, educating yourself and others about voting barriers for people with disabilities, and resources and tools for casting a ballot and access to the polls.
- Find My State or Local Election Office Website
- Your state’s voting information, including information such as the elections calendar, ballot measures, voter registration forms, and can get directions to your local polling place, as well as other related information.
- Midterm Congressional, State, and Local Elections
- Information about the upcoming midterm elections near you.
- U.S. Election Assistance Commission- Resources for Voters with Disabilities
- A list of voting accessibility resources from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
- Administration for Community Living- Voting Resources for Older Americans and People with Disabilities
- Many of the resources on this page of the ACL website are also on the above websites, but this one includes a few resources specific to older voters.
On May 20, #CripTheVote is having a Twitter chat about “Making Activism Accessible.” Visit their blog post for more information on how to join, to see the questions, and to participate. Even if you don’t use Twitter, there is still a way for you to follow along in real time—click on the following link for more information: