Mobilizing for Disability Rights – How to Effectively Contact Your Representatives


The information below is floating around Facebook.  I thought it makes a good blog so I’m reposting and changing to focus on the disability community. It’s about how to be effective when advocating.

Please heed this guidance from a high-level staffer for a Senator:

You should NOT be bothering with online petitions or emailing. Online contact basically gets immediately ignored, and letters pretty much get thrown in the trash unless you have a particularly strong emotional story – but even then it’s not worth the time it took you to craft that letter. (I don’t know if I agree with this).

There are 2 things that all people concerned with disability rights should be doing all the time right now, and they’re by far the most important things:

Face to Face Time is Important

The best thing you can do to be heard and get your congressperson to pay attention is to have face-to-face time – if they have townhalls, go to them. Go to their local offices. If you’re in Washington DC, try to find a way to go to an event of theirs. Go to the “mobile offices” that their staff hold periodically (all these times are located on each congressperson’s website). When you go, ask questions. A lot of them. And push for answers. The louder and more vocal and present you can be at those the better.

Calling is Critical

***You should make 6 calls a day (yup. SIX)***.  (I just heard on the news this morning that the Republican Congressman from Alaska had over 2000 calls about Betsy DeVos. That caused her to change her vote. The six calls you should make are to your 2 Senators and your Representative. Both DC and local offices.

Calls are what all the congresspeople pay attention to. Every single day, the Senior Staff and the Senator get a report of the 3 most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices (in DC and local offices), and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics.

They’re also sorted by zip code and area code. And this is IMPORTANT: She said Republican callers generally outnumber Democrat callers 4-1, and when it’s a particular issue that single-issue-voters pay attention to (like gun control, or planned parenthood funding, etc…), it’s often closer to 11-1, and that has recently pushed Republican congressfolks on the fence to vote with the Republicans. In the last 8 years, Republicans have called, and Democrats have not. (Note this blog is not about Democrat or Republican because Disability Rights crosses party lines).


A) When calling the DC office, ask for the Staff member in charge of whatever you’re calling about (“Hi, I’d like to speak with the staffer in charge of Healthcare, please”). Local offices won’t always have specific ones, but they might. If you get transferred to that person, awesome. If you don’t, that’s ok – ask for their name, and then just keep talking to whoever answered the phone. Don’t leave a message (unless the office doesn’t pick up at all – then you can…but it’s better to talk to the staffer who first answered than leave a message for the specific staffer in charge of your topic).

B) Give them your zip code. They won’t always ask for it, but make sure you give it to them, so they can mark it down. Extra points if you live in a zip code that traditionally votes for them, since they’ll want to make sure they get/keep your vote.

C) If you can make it personal, make it personal. “I voted for you in the last election and I’m worried/happy/whatever” or “I’m a teacher, and I am appalled by Betsy DeVos,” or “as a single mother” or “as a white, middle class woman,” or whatever.

D) Pick 1-2 specific things per day to focus on. Don’t go down a whole list – they’re figuring out what 1-2 topics to mark you down for on their lists, so, focus on 1-2 per day. Ideally something that will be voted on/taken up in the next few days, but it doesn’t really matter…even if there’s not a vote coming up in the next week, call anyway. It’s important that they just keep getting calls.

E) Be clear on what you want – “I’m disappointed that the Senator…” or “I want to thank the Senator for their vote on…” or “I want the Senator to know that voting in _____ way is the wrong decision for our state because…” Don’t leave any ambiguity.

F) They may get to know your voice/get sick of you – it doesn’t matter. The people answering the phones generally turn over every 6 weeks anyway, so even if they’re really sick of you, they’ll be gone in 6 weeks. From experience since the election: If you hate being on the phone & feel awkward, don’t worry…there are a bunch of scripts (Indivisible has some). After a few days of calling, it starts to feel a lot more natural. Put the 6 numbers in your phone all under Politician, which makes it really easy to tap down the list each day!

Now go get ’em!

Find your Representative Here

As of Feb. 3, 2017 –  here are the most urgent issues that you may with to call your representative about:

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos in her confirmation hearings was ignorant of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is a proponent of school vouchers. School vouchers will take away money from public schools and leave students with special needs less funding.

The confirmation of Jeff Sessions to U.S. Attorney General.  Jeff Sessions as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the United States would be responsible for upholding FAPE – Free and Appropriate Public Education. There are many concerns about comments Jeff Sessions has made about inclusion and special education students. Read this Forbes article.

The elimination of the Affordable Care Act. Many people with disabilities are on the Affordable Care Act. Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on their health coverage to maintain their independence and meet their medical needs. With or without a replacement, these individuals may find themselves unable to afford much higher premiums and unable to afford health care. This could eliminate health care for over 20 million in the United States. Read the ARC’s position here.

Less Urgent Now – but will need calls:

The privatization of MediCare and Social Security. Last year’s Medicare Trustees Report states that Medicare is now funded through 2028, 11 years longer than the 2009 report predicted.

Defunding the Arts. Rumors are abounding that the currrent administration is going to cut funding for the National Endowment to the Arts. The Arts are very important to the disability population and something we at the Art of Autism are watching carefully.

Watching  ( Thank you Leanne Libas for the email ):

Disability Integration Act

H.R. 2646 (Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act)

H.R. 620 (ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017)



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