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Advocate for Policy Reform or Legislation

Disability Rights Wisconsin provides information about public policy and legislative initiatives through action alerts and updates about bills currently in the Wisconsin State Legislature and in the United States Congress.  To find out what Disability Rights Wisconsin is working on and to learn more about action that you can take, visit our Public Policy page. Browse the news stories on our Home Page to find events or opportunities in your area.

You can also learn about pending state legislation and legislative committee hearings on the Wisconsin State Legislature website and federal legislation on the website for the U.S. Congress.

Here some basic steps for how you can advocate for issues that you care about!

People with disabilites at the Save IRIS forumBe an effective advocate for change

To be an effective advocate, you need to:

  • Know your target audience (i.e., legislators, government officials at the state and federal levels, editorial boards)
  • Develop and share a strong and consistent message
  • Regularly review your progress

How to develop a clear message and understand your audience

The first step is to create a plan:

  • Find the key players.  Find out which people or organizations make or influence disability policies, rules or laws.
  • Be clear about your issue.  Determine your issue or concern and state it simply, shortly, and clearly.
  • Spell out what you want done.  Clearly say what action you want the key players to take — for example, vote in favor of a bill or change a policy.
  • Know your facts.  Be prepared to talk about your issue and give reasons why it is important. Tell others why they should support your ideas.  Check out our resource center to see if we have information on your issue.
  • Have information on hand to provide.  Write a short (one-page) fact sheet to describe and support your issue.  We have written some fact sheets, which you can find in our Resource Center.

Get out there: Be active and visible

Take part in activities and events that will let you share your message:

  • Be seen.  You can go to meetings and public hearings, including legislative hearings and rallies. Serve on a committee, advisory board, or task force. Be a volunteer.  These will help you build relationships and trust, and help you learn more about your issue
  • Be heard.  Make phone calls. Write letters or emails. Distribute fact sheets or fliers. Talk to community leaders. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.  Call in to your local radio show and ask to talk about your issue.  Talk to elected officials, especially your legislators.
  • Find partners.  Invite others who also care to work with you toward a common goal.

You can download our sample letter and tips for talking to a policymaker:

Be patient but persistent

Remember that change may not happen overnight:

  • Keep at it.   Good advocacy takes time and ongoing action.  Keep building the support you need to succeed, even if it means doing something over and over again.
  • Check on how it’s going.  If you’re not getting results, take another look at your action plan.  What’s working and what’s not?  What haven’t you tried?  What could you change?

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