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 specific action that you can take, visit our Public Policy page and browse the news stories on our Home Page to find events or opportunities in your area.
Here some basic steps for how you can become an advocate on issues that you care about!
To be an effective advocate for change, 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:
- Identify the key players. Find out which people or organizations make or influence disability policies, rules or laws.
- Be clear about your issue. Identify your issue or concern and state it simply and briefly.
- Spell out what you want done. Clearly state 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 and why others 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 organized by issue 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. Attend 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 learn more about your issue
- Be heard. Make phone calls. Write letters or emails. Distribute fact sheets or fliers. Talk to organizational and 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 with similar interests and experiences to work with you toward a common goal.
You can download our sample letter and tips for talking to a policymaker:
- Tips for calling a legislator (PDF)
- Sample letter to a legislator (Word Document)
- Sample letters to the editor: Green Bay Gazette and Leader Telegram
Be patient but persistent
Remember that change may not happen overnight:
- Keep at it. Effective advocacy takes time and persistent action. Continue your efforts to build the support and buy-in you need to be successful, even if it means repeating your actions.
- 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?