The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) spent the first four months of 2019 traveling across the country—fighting for equity, organizing advocacy days, and mobilizing parents, students, and advocates. NCLD understands how difficult it can be to advocate for yourself. So we decided to bring advocate academies, parent trainings, and ultimately, Hill Day experiences to different parts of the country.
Our advocacy tour began in Washington, DC, with our first national advocacy day. Nearly 30 young leaders joined NCLD and our partners at Eye to Eye to advocate for change on behalf of the 1 in 5 with learning and attention issues. Young adults with varying learning disabilities stood up and ensured that their voices were heard. Our demands were simple: Pass the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Innovate (RISE) Act, fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act, and join the House Dyslexia Caucus. Many of the young advocates left Washington reinvigorated, hopeful, and forever changed by their experiences.
Our national advocacy day laid the foundation for the work we would accomplish across the country. Soon after leaving Washington, NCLD travelled south to the great state of Georgia, where we trained and mobilized parents. Our time in Georgia culminated with a “Day of Action” event at the Georgia General Assembly. Over 30 parents, students, and advocates joined us in Atlanta on March 12 to urge state representatives to introduce a state-level RISE Act. Parents and students informed their representatives how integral accommodations are to leveling the playing field in college. Our advocacy efforts helped us nurture great relationships, and we’re working with state leaders to introduce the RISE Act in the next legislative session.
Finally, our advocacy tour took us west to Denver. There, we trained parents and young adults, connected with state representatives and senators, built relationships with parent-led organizations, and hosted an amazing advocacy day with nearly 30 parents, students, and young adults. NCLD staff members were inspired by the young students who shared their stories with elected officials, and urged the officials to pass a state-level RISE Act for these students’ sake. Additionally, Kelsey Harbert, a young adult from our DC advocacy day, joined us and discussed the importance of advocacy and making your voice heard. Our time in Colorado was highlighted by a rousing question-and-answer period with Rep. Janet Buckner and Rep. Jim Wilson. Their unshakable support for students with learning disabilities sparked a lively discussion, energizing local advocates who admittedly had “grown tired” of advocating without being able to see results. We are happy to report that the legislative demands we are urging the state legislature to make are being considered—and we expect legislation to be introduced in the next legislative session.
We started our journey in Washington, DC, and traveled across America connecting parents, students, and advocates to resources and advocacy strategies. Along the way, we learned that it doesn’t matter if you live on the East Coast, in the South, or in the West. In all states, children are struggling in school, face a lack of resources, and need more support. In moving toward a more equitable society and building a system that works for everyone, each of us must get involved. Our silence and lack of political involvement contribute to our problems. We need to stand up and make some noise. And we need to go out, organize, and create the change we wish to see. Each generation must do its part until we finally build a truly equitable, truly just education system.
If you’re ready to stand up and make some noise, we invite you to join our movement. You can learn more about our advocacy, use our resources to tweet at members of Congress or send a letter on the RISE Act, or sign up for our newsletter to stay informed. The movement is happening, and it needs you!