And this year, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to be at Advocacy Days as the new Executive Director of GCDD.
One of the great privileges of being a DD council is we’re charged with advocacy system change and capacity building. And we do a lot of that in our advocacy, which we try to involve everybody who wants to be involved.
And for GCDD holding this annual event, we’re making connections or supporting the connection between citizens and legislators.
I think this is magical.
The three Advocacy Days GCDD hosted this year were fantastic. We found that legislators hear from many professional advocates and lobbyists, and especially during the session, it’s not as often that they get face-to-face with their constituents. And our community always does a great job of turning up and having those conversations. We have heard really great feedback from advocates and we have heard great feedback from legislators.
Even though GCDD’s Advocacy Days are over, our advocacy is not done. There are a lot of ways to stay engaged the remainder of this year, and people must do.
Make sure that you are signed up for our email alerts and connected into our network. One way is through GCDD’s system called Capitol Canary. Sign up, put in your address, and it will automatically populate with your state representatives. There is an email template there; you can either send the email as is or personalize it. We got a lot of feedback from legislators that they got hundreds of emails collectively last year, and that was a big reason for the 513 waivers.
You can also use social media to advocate. We post things on our social media channels all the time. And if you do not have access to social media, you can always pick up the phone and call your state representative.
We always recommend getting to know your legislators in the off-season. It’s a little calmer, and they are in the community. They live near you or they wouldn’t be your legislator. Just working those individual relationships, writing them independently, and saying, “Hey, I’m your constituent. I want you to know seeing more waivers and higher wages for direct support professionals (DSPs) is very important to me, and here’s why.” Or “I really want you to support scholarships for Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) students, and here’s why.”
I feel incredibly lucky to be in this role. Additionally, as Executive Director, I get to be still involved in policy efforts like Advocacy Days and get to help oversee things and shape things and be involved in so many really important efforts and conversations within the disability community and space. I get to learn from so many people.
My mom was a teacher, and I think something that she said to me once was really wise. She said, “The leader sets the tone.”
It’s an incredible privilege that I have to be able just to set the tone for GCDD and be part of setting the tone for the disability community in Georgia.
Executive Director, GCDD