Upset that your town doesn’t take care of the sidewalks making it difficult for you to get around with your disability or in your wheelchair? Passionate about a bill in Congress that will get your Social Security benefits more quickly? Want your emotional support peacock to be designated as a disability dependent?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen your fair share of negligence, absurdities, and injustices that you’re ready to do something about it! But where do you turn?
Your state and local officials are your best place to start.
Advocating for yourself is an important part of becoming your own health champion. And it’s easier than you think. Don’t let fear or intimidation get in your way. Contacting your state and local officials is something more people should do, and you never know what ideas you can spark by doing so.
While we are talking about talking to officials, let’s focus on talking to officials about disability and the importance of advocacy. The topic of disability is one that requires a lot of attention and work to get things done.
Maybe you have some ideas to make improvements for those with a disability within your community, or you yourself have a disability and want to speak on the topic and your own needs.
So, with that being said, let’s take a look at how to do so efficiently, and get your voice heard by the right people.
To start, a government official’s contact information is usually a quick internet search away. In fact, you can find everything you need to know about your state and local officials right here. This database is a great place to get familiar with your elected officials, and how to contact them.
Now, since we aren’t looking to speak to the President of the United States, it will take a big of digging on the site to find your specific officials.
The main page has links directly to places where you can search for your officials. Bonus points if you already know who you’re looking for. Since you’re here wondering how to talk to them, you probably already know who you want to speak with.
Once you find their information, great! Now it’s time to get to work.
If you are experiencing issues regarding disability and are unsure of laws and regulations, you can check out the Americans with Disabilities Act website to ensure you have all the correct information before you reach out.
Having more people backing the same issue will help you get the point across.
Another thing to consider before contacting state and local officials is to check out social media communities that are concerned with the same issues as you. Perhaps you can join forces, or get their insight and speak on their behalf.
Contacting State and Local Officials
Alright, you’ve gotten their information. Email, phone number, P.O. Box, you’ve found it all. So, how are you going to contact them? What are you going to say? You’ll want it to be eye catching so someone will actually read it.
The best method for contacting an official is an email or handwritten letter. It’s easy to blast off an email without thinking twice, but a letter takes time, energy, and good penmanship. Never underestimate the power of well-articulated thought on pen and paper. In fact, since it’s less common practice these days, a hand-written letter will stand out.
Make sure to follow these tips:
- Be clear and concise, don’t write this letter like you’re sending it to your Grandma.
- Do your homework. You should sound like an expert on the topic in your letter.
- If you are speaking for a community rather than just yourself, make it known
- Answer the 5 W’s
- Who you are, or who you are representing
- What you are writing about, things you want to see changed and accomplished
- Where you are and how the issue impacts you, what a resolution to the issue will do for you
- When do you want to see the issue resolved, and how?
Keep your letter cool, calm and professional. Have someone else look it over before you send it to make sure it covers everything you want it to. This might be the only shot you have at getting an official to look at what you have to say! Make it count.
While you’ll probably have to mail the letter if you can drop it off at the office, do that. Getting it right into someone’s hands is the best way to get the letter opened and read.
Meeting with Officials in Person
Being able to meet with officials in person will be more attainable on the local level. After all, they are living in your town and probably host events that you can attend to get a chance to speak with them.
Calling and getting an in-person meeting is a big deal on any level, and you should be sure to go into the meeting prepared to discuss anything and everything on the issue you’re bringing to the table.
Do your homework, and be ready to answer any questions. Getting a chance to have your voice heard in person will be the most impactful way to get your message across. They are seeing you right in front of them, after all.
Remember the social media connections we talked about? Maybe you can bring someone from the community to the meeting, or consult with them for talking points to bring up.
Don’t be afraid to bring notecards with you to remember talking points. Think of this as a presentation. You want to sound confident and credible, while also being able to carry a conversation.
Local officials want to help, and if they have agreed to meet with you they want to hear what you have to say.
To sum it up, speaking with your state and local officials is a great way to be heard.
If you’re experiencing issues in your community, or want to let them know about ideas you have, the best way to contact them is by email or a handwritten letter. In-person meeting? Even better.
They want to help you as much as you want to help.