At the core of our advocacy is “empowerment” of people with disabilities to take action, get involved and make a difference in their world.
We work with people to ensure that they know and understand their rights: the right to a sign language interpreter at public meetings; to a barrier-free community; to an education in an inclusive classroom; to a competitive integrated job; to services in the most integrated setting; to vote independently and privately; and so much more. We also assist people to learn how to advocate for themselves. Additionally, we do Systems Advocacy; working to make changes to local, state and federal laws and policies that affect the lives of individuals with disabilities.
A primary goal of independent living is learning how to advocate for oneself. Peer counselors, service coordinators, and others from STIC can teach self-advocacy and self-help skills, assist individuals with follow-up contacts, attend meetings and appointments, etc. The goal is to learn how to advocate for the issues of most importance to an individual and that affect him / her daily. This could mean advocating to have an interpreter for an appointment, advocating to move a meeting to an accessible site so an individual can attend it, and other concerns that may affect one or two people but not necessarily people in general. It is often a one-time effort to resolve a one-time problem.
As people with disabilities learn how to advocate for themselves, they are often so empowered by the experience that they grow to become systems advocates in their own right.
Systems advocacy seeks to change things more generally or broadly, such as laws, regulations, policies, procedures and/or practices. It could be on a local level, or statewide or nationally and may be working through government, agencies or other venues.
STIC’s Systemic Advocacy is organized around specific disability issues such as civil rights, education, employment, health care, accessibility, housing, transportation, and community services. Several Systems Advocacy Committees meet monthly and consumers and community members are welcome to join us. Systems advocates help to develop strategies for affecting the issue at hand, and then implementing their plan by making calls to legislators and policy makers, sending emails, writing letters, attending meetings or rallies, and/or testifying at public hearings. Every call or letter makes a difference and no task is too small to matter.
Two local groups that have grown out of STIC’s Systems Advocacy efforts are the Broome County Transportation Advocacy Group (TAG) and Southern Tier ADAPT.
Transportation Advocacy Group
TAG is an example of a group that was developed in response to a specific issue, cuts by county government to Broome Transit.
TAG members have been vocal and persistent at public hearings and county legislative meetings. They organized consumers and the public around the serious problems that arose from Broome County’s cuts to the BC Transit. They circulated petitions and flyers, repeatedly attended and spoke at county legislature meetings and much more. Recently, they fought hard to preserve the monthly bus pass and were completely successful in their efforts. As a result, the cost of bus passes for people with disabilities was kept within an affordable range. TAG continues to advocate for restoration of lost transit services.
Click here for link to TAG
ADAPT is an example of a group that initially was formed to work on only one issue, but has morphed into a highly respected group of advocates who actively fight for the civil rights of people with disabilities on a wide variety of issues.
What is ADAPT? It is a group of people with disabilities and interested others who advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. ADAPT empowers people to take action on issues they care about. They accomplish this through rallies, meetings, letters, phone calls and sometimes through civil disobedience. There is a place in ADAPT for anyone that cares about disability rights. Everyone is encouraged to participate at the level they are comfortable. No one is ever pressured to get more involved than they wish.
Southern Tier ADAPT members testified and demonstrated numerous times in Albany on Olmstead implementation so that people with disabilities could live in their own homes, work in real jobs, and access their communities. After many years, we are very close to having an Olmstead Plan in place in New York, but more work will be needed to see this plan realized.
Advocacy at STIC is a way to put our independent living mission and visions into actions that will help our community. Contact us to see how you can be a part of the action!
Sue Ruff, Systems Advocate
Phone: (607) 724-2111 or toll free at (877) 722-9150 (Voice and TTY)