Raise Your Voice! FAQ

Raise Your Voice!

How do I get to Austin?

However you can! If you need assistance making arrangements, you can always call us. And if money is an issue, travel stipends for the Training are available.

Where do I park?

At the REJ Conference Center: limited on-street parking is available adjacent to the center. Parking is also available at the Visitors’ Parking Garage at 13th and San Jacinto.

At CTD: a few spots will be available in our small parking lot. Paid street parking is available on all nearby streets (free after 6 pm).

What can I expect in terms of accessibility?

At the hotel: visit the Embassy Suites' website for ADA accessible room information.

At the REJ Conference Center: No steps, wide doorways. Some wheelchair users may need to use restrooms on another floor, which CTD staff can direct you to.

At the Capitol: The Capitol is by law wheelchair accessible, but it is not without its quirks. The North entrance is the accessible entrance. This will make things a little tricky, as the rally will be held on the South steps. We've allowed extra time in our agenda to make sure everyone can arrive where they need to be on time. When it's time for office visits, note that elevators are located on the North side of the rotunda. We'll have maps at the event, but you can get an idea of the layout here.

At CTD: Our new office is staffed by people with various disabilities. It's not perfect, but we've got this.

What do I wear?

We recommend business casual. If you don't have anything like that, it's ok. You won't be turned away from the Training or the Capitol because of your clothes.

What is this event going to be like?

Jumping into advocacy can be intimidating! But we are here to make sure you are supported every step of the way. Here's a rundown of what to expect at each part of the Training:

Wednesday evening, we're holding a relaxed reception, where you can get to know CTD staff and some of the other folks you'll be training and going to the Capitol with.

Thursday morning, at the Training, we'll go over our issues in some depth and give you material to take with you to the Capitol. Then, we'll have a relaxed lunch together and you can discuss what you've learned and ask questions.

After lunch, we'll head to the Capitol for the Don't Myth with Texas Rally, organized by The Arc of Texas. If you've never been to a rally before, they are fun, energizing events, geared to get you excited about making office visits.

Speaking of office visits! This is the part that can really be scary. But don't worry. You'll be instructed about where to go and what to do and say. Also, you'll be with a group of others, including group leaders who have done all of this before and are ready to help if you need it. And if you really don't want to speak during office visits, you don't have to.

After office visits, you're free to come over to our office to chat with CTD staff and fellow advocates about how the day went. This debrief can be helpful in recalling lessons learned from the day, planning your next move, and reconnecting with fellow advocates.

Tips on office visits and contacting legislators.

What is the difference between Advocacy and Lobbying?

Though there are major overlaps, Advocacy and Lobbying are quite different. Advocacy describes a broad category of activities, including educating lawmakers on an issue and helping to find specific solutions to enduring problems. Lobbying on the other hand, involves activities that are in direct support of or opposition to a specific piece of introduced legislation. We will be Advocating on April 6.

What if I make a mistake or say the wrong thing to a Legislator?

You'll be prepared with facts and statistics before you make your visits. And we'll provide 1-pagers that you can reference during your visits. Even if you make a mistake, you'll be among seasoned advocates who can jump in to correct it. It might be a little embarrassing, but it's happened to everyone, even our top advocacy staff!

Most of the time, you'll be speaking to legislative staffers, rather than the legislators themselves. Don't take this as a bad sign­–staffers are often the eyes and ears of their bosses. If you can get a staffer's attention, chances are good they'll communicate your issue to the legislator favorably.

What if my legislator or their staff is a jerk?

We won't lie, sometimes they are. Our decision makers can be unresponsive, irritable, and plain mean. But an overwhelming majority of the time, they are decent people who really are interested in hearing your story.

If you do encounter rudeness, just continue to be courteous. The leader of the group will wrap things up as quickly as possible, so you can move on to the next visit.

What if we don't get the things we're asking for?

We are in this for the long haul, and we'll be here next session! Advocating for meaningful change often takes multiple legislative sessions. When we make a good impression on legislators, we put ourselves in a stronger position to come back make repeated asks.

Will sharing my story make a difference for others like me?

Communication with your state legislators and regulators can have a direct effect on you and those like you. As a resident of your state, you are a constituent to whom elected members of the legislature have a responsibility. Elected officials and their staff members carry out that responsibility in part by meeting with their constituents and hearing their stories or concerns.

Take long-time CTD member Dorothy Hill as an example. Dorothy has managed her post-polio disabilities all of her life and has been ventilator dependent since 1987. She trains her own caregivers in a rigorous and structured 3-week program that she has perfected over decades. She is a business owner and advocate for others who require a ventilator. Dorothy’s dream is that all 24-hour vent patients (as she calls herself) can experience the health and quality of life advantages of living in their own homes with (a) caregivers who are paid a living wage to assure quality and reduce turnover and (b) are paid during a consistent training program provided by a qualified instructor, specialized in respiratory care. None of our current home care programs assure these elements.

By sharing her story not only with her representatives, but also officials in state agencies, fellow advocates, and others, Dorothy has led the way in the formation of the Ventilator Assistance Workgroup last year and filed legislation this session to improve care to this population.

Why should we bother when the people in power don’t seem to care about people with disabilities?

It does seem that those making the decisions only see dollar signs, not lives, when they slash funding and limit options for people with disabilities. However, it is legislators’ job to represent our will. And it's our job to make sure they don't forget that!

Also, one of most effective things you can do to effect change is build a relationship with your legislator. This takes time–certainly more than a day– and effort. But really getting to know your legislator can give you a real foot in the door for getting your message across. Think about this: if someone walks up to you, asking you to solve their problem, are you more likely to listen closely and act if that person is a friend? Or a stranger?

A few tips on building relationships with legislators.

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that the disability community has crucial allies on both sides of the isle. After all, disability issues are nonpartisan. CTD has worked with legislators and partners from all over the political spectrum because somewhere, we found common ground. Don't assume your representative's stance on disability issues is based on their party affiliation. They may surprise you!

Still have questions? Contact us!

@TXDisabilities