PoliticsDisability Advocates: You CAN Navigate the Policy Maze

Disability Advocates: You CAN Navigate the Policy Maze


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In a few weeks, Iowa lawmakers return for the 2022 legislative session. Disability advocates say there are ways to rise above the divisive nature of politics and successfully connect with policymakers.

In Estherville, Brittney Funston is the mother of Joscelyn, a 10-year-old girl living with cerebral palsy, autism, and intellectual disabilities. In recent years, Brittney has become a family advocate for the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council and increasingly involved in that.

She said researching topics is key for those wanting to be an advocate. And, she said, if you happen to secure face time with a lawmaker, sharing a brief personal story is effective.

“Not necessarily asking for their yes or their no on something but letting them know that there’s people in Iowa that rely on them,” said Funston.

She said sharing a photo can help, because it allows policymakers to put a face on the situation.

Funston, a member of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, said through her outreach, policy decisions were made to better accommodate local families in the area of bus routes and school choice.


Funston said ultimately, lawmakers are people who want to hear about the life experience of Iowans as a way to better understand what they or their family members are going through.

“They may represent one party, you know, or may be opposed to another party,” said Funston. “But at the end of day, you know, they all have families. Some, they all have personal experiences.”

As for research, she said it can go beyond reading through proposed bills found online.

“There’s lots of local boards, city boards and regional boards that you can definitely join their meetings,” said Funston. “You know, a lot of them are open to the public.”

She said gathering information can possibly result in state lawmakers relying on you as a source. The Developmental Disabilities Council also helps advocates track legislative developments through newsletters and online discussions.

In January, bills are introduced before debate takes shape. Final floor votes often happen around the start of spring.

Caregiver shortages are among the topics disability advocates expect to see debated in 2022.

En pocas semanas, los legisladores de Iowa regresaran para la the sesion legislativa de 2022. Los defensores de las personas con discapacidades dicen que hay formas de superar la naturaleza divisiva de la politica y conectarse con exito con los legisladores.

En Estherville, Brittney Funston es la madre de Joscelyn, una nina de 10 anos que vive con paralisis cerebral, autismo y discapacidad intelectual. En los ultimos anos, Brittney se ha involucrado cada vez mas en el mundo de la defensoria.

Ella dice que investigar temas es clave para aquellos que quieren ser defensores de la familia o autodefensores. Y ella dice que, si se asegura un tiempo cara a cara con un legislador, compartirle una breve historia personal es muy eficaz.

“No necesariamente pidiendoles un si o un no, sino haciendoles saber que hay personas en Iowa que confian en ellos,” dice Funston.

Ella dice que compartir una foto puede ayudar, porque permite a los legisladores ponerle rostro a la situacion.

Funston, miembro del Consejo de Discapacidades de Desarrollo en Iowa, dice que a traves de su alcance, se tomaron decisiones politicas para acomodar mejor a las familias locales en el area de las rutas de autobus y la eleccion de escuelas.

Funston dice que en ultima instancia, los legisladores son personas que quieren escuchar sobre la experiencia de vida de los habitantes de Iowa como una forma de comprender mejor por lo que ellos o sus familiares estan pasando.

“Puede que representen a una de las partes, o pueden oponerse a otras,” dice Funston. “Pero al final del dia, todos tienen familias, y todos tienen experiencias personales.”

En cuanto a la investigacion, dice que se puede ir mas alla de leer los proyectos de ley que se encuentran en linea.

“Hay muchas juntas locales, municipales y regionales a las que definitivamente puedes unirte a sus reuniones,” agrega Funston. “Muchas de ellas estan abiertas al publico.”

Ella dice que la recopilacion de informacion puede resultar en que los legisladores estatales dependan de usted como fuente. El Consejo de Discapacidades del Desarrollo tambien ayuda a defensores a realizar un seguimiento de los desarrollos legislativos a traves de boletines informativos y debates en linea.

En enero, se presentaran los proyectos de ley antes de que tome forma el debate. Las votaciones finales a menudo ocurren alrededor del comienzo de la primavera.

La escasez de cuidadores se encuentra entre los temas que los defensores esperan que sean debatidos en 2022.

Sunshine Slate
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