How can you make a difference?
The following tips from The Arc will help you become a more effective advocate for people with disabilities:
Let your local officials hear your opinions
As a citizen, your opinions help elected officials decide how to vote on issues. Let your elected officials know your opinions through letters, e-mails, phone calls, etc. Remember, they are very busy and you want your message to have as much impact as possible. For the most impact, your communication should be brief, clear and focused on just one issue.
Attend public meetings
Meetings of the city council, county council, Indiana General Assembly, school board, etc., are open to the public. Attending these meetings helps keep you informed of the way public business is transacted and how the various elected officials interact. In addition, public meetings give citizens a good opportunity to give their opinions by speaking during the public feedback section of the meetings. Nearly all elected officials host public meetings. They are at schools, libraries, churches, etc. This is your opportunity to hear from your elected official what they are working on and to give your input on issues.
Letters to the editor
Writing a letter to the editor is an effective way to publicly discuss an issue and influence the decisions of local officials. Every newspaper has different requirements for letters to the editor. In general, as with letters to elected officials, it is important to be brief, clear, and concise and focus on just one issue.
Join an advocacy group
Joining an advocacy group is one way to increase your awareness to elected officials. You can often be more successful and have more fun working with a group. There are many disability-focused groups to consider joining: a local chapter of The Arc, a family support group, a neighborhood association, etc.
Register and vote
This is critical! Voting is your most effective tool for local government involvement. By voting and supporting your chosen candidate, you send a message about the kind of government you want. To vote, a citizen must be registered. Registration to vote ends 29 days before each election. To register you must be 18 years old on the day of the election and you must be a citizen of the United States. You can register at your local city clerk’s office, license branch, and many other government offices.
Be an informed voter
This is more important than voting! Before you vote, it is essential to seek information on the candidates and their positions. Information is abundant during elections. Much information is available from political parties and candidates themselves. While this information is helpful, it is also important to get information from other sources, such as newspapers, web sites, public debates, advocacy groups you are interested in, etc.
Work for the political party or candidate of your choice
Getting involved with a political party, or political candidate, gives you an inside track on the process. Every political party and candidate has plenty of work that needs to be done. You may be asked to make phone calls, stuff envelopes, hand out literature, staff a booth, work on Election Day, etc. Once you establish yourself as a reliable volunteer, you will have the opportunity to have your point of view listened to, and perhaps, acted upon by your party and your party’s government officials.
Find Your Elected Officials