If you’ve been sidelined by a disability or if you care for someone who has a disability, help others by becoming a disability advocate. An advocate can do many things to help educate people about disabilities, from helping to write newsletters to participating in fundraisers for an organization. People of all ability levels are welcome as advocates in organizations or groups that support the disabled.
Advocates are Volunteers
Disability advocates are usually volunteers who work with a local or national organization to raise awareness about disabilities in general, or a particular disability. They may work on a variety of activities, depending upon individual interest. Depending upon the job they are performing, they may work from the comfort of their own home or at an organization’s offices. Volunteers may make phone calls, write newsletters, distribute flyers, work on websites or help out with fundraising activities. Some volunteers may also talk with the media, speak on the radio or give speeches to groups about their organization and the people they’re supporting. Volunteers are the backbone of many organizations, and the jobs they perform are in demand.
People who volunteer may work a specific schedule or work when needed. Each organization is different in terms of scheduling their volunteers. Once you’ve made contact with an organization that needs volunteers, you’ll speak with a volunteer coordinator who can work with you to create a schedule that fits both of your needs.
Who Can Be an Advocate
You don’t have to be a doctor, nurse or an expert to become a disability advocate. All you need is a desire to share your experiences and information about disabilities with other people. Advocates are often people that know someone who have a particular disability and they want to help out in some way. They may also be people who have a disability or care for someone who has a disability. You do not have to have a direct connection to someone who has a disability in order to help out.
How to Get Involved
When you become a disability advocate you will be helping millions of individuals that often cannot speak for themselves. The main objectives of advocacy include raising money for research or for direct support of individuals affected by a disability, educating the public about a specific disease or condition, and to expand services for those who are disabled.
One of the easiest ways to become an advocate at any level is to join a local group or organization that supports the disabled. This can often be done by either making a phone call or signing up on a website. The group or organization can then provide you with tools for contacting political representatives at the local, state or national level. They also can provide you with local media contacts in your zip code so that you may contact local radio stations, newspapers or television stations about events being staged in your area, as well provide information about pending legislation.
Contacting Political Representatives
If you live in the United States, the quickest way to approach representatives, congressmen and senators is to contact their office directly by phone. The protocol for calling a member of the legislature is as follows:
- Identify yourself as a constituent
- Ask to speak with the aide that is handling the issues you want to comment on
- Tell them that you want to leave a message
- Identify the bill that you are supporting or opposing
- State the reasons for your position
- Ask what your representative’s position is on the bill
- Request a written response or a follow up phone call
No matter how you choose to work as an advocate, you will be able to help many people suffering from disabilities who are unable to advocate for themselves. A small investment of your time can prove invaluable to those with a disabling condition.