Whether you have five minutes per week or a lot of time to spare, these tips will get you started on the road to advocacy:
Become familiar with the state and federal laws that pertain to learning disabilities.
There is no need to go to law school; information is available through your local Parent Training and Information Center. These articles will also provide you with basic information: Knowing Your Child’s Rights, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Get on the mailing list of advocacy organizations.
NCLD’s own Legislative Updates and Action Alerts are a great way to become familiar with what Washington is doing about learning disabilities. Sign up today!
Call your legislators.
Politicians are people with their own experiences. If LD is not a part of their lives, they can't possibly understand the implications of their votes the way you do. Your federal representatives’ phone numbers are listed in the blue section of your phone book, or you can find contact information at contactingthecongress.org. You don't need a bill number, nor do you need to be connected to a big organization. They want to hear from you; they have a staff for just that purpose. And if there is a bill, they'd rather receive your call before a big vote than get an angry call afterwards. More tips on working with policymakers are in our LD Advocates Guide.
Write a letter to a policymaker.
Just like phone calls, your elected officials welcome hearing from you. Tell them how a particular piece of legislation will affect you and others who are affected by learning disabilities. Stories from their constituents are always helpful to policymakers. In return, you can usually expect to get a letter of reply explaining the issue more fully and what they intend to do about it. Learn more about how to communicate with policymakers in our LD Advocates Guide.
Talk about what you know.
Talk to family, friends, even someone you meet randomly about your LD concerns and what can be done about it. If you happen to meet someone running for office, don’t rush away. Instead, ask him or her about what he or she intends to do for learning disabilities if elected, and say what you think. Review the “Learning to Talk about LD” section in our LD Advocates Guide for tips on what to say.
Call a radio station, or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Explain why disability legislation is an important issue and how things can be changed for the better. Put up signs, and call a meeting in your neighborhood to discuss learning disabilities policies. As an advocate you don't have to go it alone. To the contrary, you should try to get as many people excited and active about learning disabilities as possible.
It seems basic, but it is vital that you exercise this right. You can even go one step further by helping candidates who support learning disabilities issues with their campaigns. The knowledge you have can help a candidate clarify his or her position on an issue that is important to so many people.