What’s your story?
Story by April Reed
As I have stepped into my new role as the Vice President of Advocacy, many people ask me,“What led you to this work?”and “How did you end up in Advocacy?” Thus, I have reflected on my own journey as an advocate.
One of my first advocacy lessons came from my dad. As a child, I remember being in my kindergarten class when another student asked him what was in his ears. I watched my dad kneel down to the floor, take off his hearing aids and patiently explain to the kids why he wore them.
Over the course of my life I would have to educate, share and advocate for myself with physical disability. I have always remembered my dad’s patient example.
I became a social worker because I found the philosophy of self-determination, social justice and inclusion were in alignment with the core values that, as a person with a disability, I had come to hold sacred. Discovering centers for independent living such as Ability360, with the mission of “Advocacy. Independence. Equality.” fit too.
On my first day at Ability360, I attended a meeting with about 100 advocates who were planning efforts to support the passage of Proposition 400, a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements. Community education was an important piece and I along with many others went out to senior centers, nursing homes and community forums to educate voters. When I see the light rail go by our offices today, I sometimes think of those advocates and the countless hours they worked to see that dream fulfilled.
I have had the privilege of hearing many people share their own advocacy journeys. I’ve learned that sometimes advocacy is gentle and soft, like my dad kneeling down at my school. Other times advocacy is loud and emotional, like advocates being carried from our nation’s capital last summer in protest of the proposed cuts to Medicaid.
Most importantly, I have learned that we all must have our own advocacy voices. In order to thrive, and not just survive with our disabilities, we must become teachers and advocates. We must learn to speak up and say what we need and why we need it. We must be willing to fight for our community when legislation or budget cuts threaten our ability to live well with our disabilities.
Not sure you have an advocacy story yet? We have staff and programs at Ability360 to help you develop your advocacy skills. You can sign up on our website ability360.org for the Empower ListServ which will keep you apprised of national and state legislation that could impact our community. We’ll give you the tools to email, call or tweet our federal and state representatives on issues you care about. Get involved and start your own advocacy journey today!
Vice President of Advocacy