Right now in Tennessee, legislative session is happening! While it’s important to advocate year-round for disability employment, now is a great time to meet with your legislators. Plus, the governor will be giving his State of the State address and budget proposal in early March. It’s important to pay attention to how the governor talks about disability employment and whether there is state funding to support further disability employment initiatives.
Meeting with your legislator is intimidating for many people. We’ve asked self-advocate Sarah Harvey to share a few tips on ensuring your meetings are successful. Sarah has a fantastic amount of experience advocating with her legislators and frequently encourages her daughter to become involved in advocacy as well. The three steps she’s laid out below are very helpful to going into your next legislative meeting confidently.
Three Steps to a Successful Meeting with Your Legislator
By guest writer Sarah Harvey
Meeting with legislators to share life experience is important for people with disabilities and their families. Face to face meetings have proven to be a key factor in continued funding for much needed supports in Tennessee. Check out these quick and easy ways to prepare.
Nail Your Talking Points
Consider your appointment in terms of relationship building at a fast pace. When meeting with your legislator, it’s important to briefly share who you are, your life experience, and what matters to you and your family. Typically, appointments are scheduled in 15 minute slots. This allows for approximately five minutes to engage your legislator on covering these topics. Preparing and nailing your talking points in advance is recommended to ensure you both walk away having had a successful meeting.
Be Prepared to Ask Questions and Educate Your Legislator
Expect your legislator to want to know why you’re meeting with them. In other words, what is it that you’re looking to achieve? There can be a wide range of requests you are making, but you need to be prepared to do so. This can include supporting a key issue, educating your legislator on a relevant topic, or thanking your legislator for support on previous decisions that had a positive impact.
In addition to knowing your ask, be ready to back up your request with solid facts. Advocacy organizations typically have this information available in fact sheet format. Leaving behind a brief document referencing pertinent facts and where your legislator can learn more is crucial to the success of your meeting. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to be an expert on every topic, so providing resources is helpful to your legislator in helping them understand the issues that affect you.
Wrap up your meeting with a next step. Share your personal contact information and offer future contact for further questions or information. Ask what the best way is to connect with your legislator and their staff. Sending a written or emailed thank you shortly after your meeting with references to your ask is a gentle and helpful approach to continuing your relationship building. Preparation for meeting with your legislators will make the time spent together worthwhile for the both of you. The life experience expertise that you share gives your voice the power to influence positive change.
Remember, your voice matters! Decreasing stigma and supporting inclusivity in the workplace begins with you. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Tennesseans with disabilities.
Every year, we host a Disability Day on the Hill, where self-advocates from across the state come together for a day of meeting with legislators on current bills and issues they care about. To get involve din this important day, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.tndisability.org/disability-day-hill.