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Disability Advocates: You CAN Navigate the Policy Maze

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Monday, December 20, 2021   

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.



Disclosure: Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Early Childhood Education, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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