Effective advocacy requires knowledge of existing laws, pending legislation, and political players as well as an understanding of how to influence the legislative process. Good advocacy also requires an understanding of the current state service system, policies and practices and an awareness of unmet needs and trends in promising practices. Unfortunately, political decisions and policy changes often occur with minimal input from those who are most affected. The Arc of Missouri believes that individuals with disabilities and their families and advocates are a powerful voice in the advancement of good laws, policies and practices but stakeholders frequently need to increase their knowledge and understanding before they can be effective advocates.
The Arc of Missouri is also aware that only about ¼ of the citizens of Missouri who have a developmental disability are involved with the service system, leaving many others assuming that supports and services to meet their needs will be available should they suddenly experience a change in circumstances. As a committed community of individuals with developmental disabilities, families and advocates, the Arc of Missouri supports advocacy efforts among its members and those it represents. We foster awareness among this group of stakeholders as well as among legislators, policymakers, school districts, service providers and the general public and share our vision of maximizing independence, productivity, inclusion and self-determination.
There are several programs available that teach advocacy at little or no expense for the individual. The Arc encourages individuals with disabilities and their families to investigate the following programs and links:
Partners in Policymaking is a leadership training program for adults with disabilities and parents of children with developmental disabilities. The program teaches leadership skills and techniques to develop positive partnerships with elected officials, school personnel and other individuals who make policy decisions about services.
Legislative Education Project is a collaborative project sponsored by the Governor´s Council on Disability, Missouri Centers for Independent Living, and the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council. LEP's mission is to educate and motivate individuals by providing opportunities to become active in creating positive public policies for people with disabilities. It is available for individuals/organizations that are novice to the legislation process or need additional learning about the Missouri legislative process regarding disability policies or proposed legislation that impacts people with disabilities.
Missouri Youth Leadership Forum is a unique career leadership-training program for high school students with disabilities, ages 16 - 21. Youth delegates are selected from their local communities to cultivate leadership, citizenship and social skills at this four-day summer program. Delegates develop their leadership skills, learn to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society, and gain knowledge of the policymaking and practices that affect youth people with disabilities
People First of Missouri is a statewide organization that promotes equality for people with disabilities so they can live the life they want in the community. People First members teach and empower people to understand their rights and responsibilities and to speak up for themselves, stand up for one another to help people live the life they want with the supports they need, advocate for community services that allow people to have choices and control over their supports and lives, and create change in communities to ensure opportunity and full, meaningful participation for all people.
MPACT is a statewide parent training and information center that serves parents of children with all disabilities. Their primary goal is to assist parents in their effort to effectively advocate for their children's educational rights and services.