Thursday, February 17, 2011

What is advocacy anyway?

It seems like an easy question, but if you ask five people what advocacy is, you’ll get five very different responses. Advocacy can be thought of as giving active support for a cause or position. Advocacy can be done by an individual or by an advocacy group, and may be motivated by morality, ethics, faith, self-interest, etc. Advocacy can also take many forms: from dousing people in fur jackets with red paint, to sending mailings entreating one to preserve the planet and its resources, to offering personal testimony at a public hearing.

Why is advocacy important?
Advocacy is important because YOU are important. Despite the progress made in our society over the years, many people still experience inequality in their lives, or see unfairness that compels them to action. You may feel like advocating for certain causes or people at times. As long as you are respectful in your advocacy, go for it! Advocacy reinforces the idea that we all have a voice, and we will be heard. Remember, many people may not be aware of the injustices you see or experience in your life, and advocacy is a great way to change attitudes and misconceptions.

What do you need to advocate?
All you need to advocate is an idea, a strong commitment to a cause, and the willingness to learn all there is to know about the issue. Remember: you always have the right to ask questions about why something is the way it is, and what can be done about it. Your rights as a human being are just as important as anyone else’s. Advocating gives you an opportunity to address an issue that is important to you, and allows you to learn more about the world you live in.
Why advocacy at RCIL?
RCIL has offered advocacy services for over 27 years. This includes advocacy on an individual level (advocating for a person to receive services), and on a systemic level (advocating for greater access to home and community based services). RCIL engages in advocacy because, although our country has progressed in the way it treats persons with disabilities, there is still a bias toward segregation and isolation, and a lack of access. That is something we want to change.

What do you want to change?
- Quinton

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

3 Steps to Making a Difference in Politics

With everything that’s going on in your life, it may not seem like you can change anything that’s wrong in your life or the world. You may believe that no one wants to hear your story or that you might know the best way to make the world just a little easier. Keep reading to find out some steps to take when you’re ready to be heard. It’s not nearly as hard as you might think.

1. Remember that your voice counts
It may seem a little surprising, but elected officials like hearing from people that live in their districts about what’s important to them. Yes, special interests and powerful people are often good at finding ways to have their voices heard by decision-makers. But, since we live in democracy – a millionaire gets one vote.

And so do you.

If you’re 18 or older, you can probably vote. (There are some restrictions in New York). If you want to sign-up on-line, see

Better yet, have a friend or family member sign-up too and when November comes, you’ll have someone to go to the polls with you. Once you’re there, there’s information how to vote. Plenty of people ask questions, so don’t be afraid to mention that you’re not sure what to do. If you’d like we can also help you fill out the forms at RCIL. Just call us at 797-4642.

2. Decide what’s important to you
Everyone has issues or programs, and ideas that they think are important. Maybe for you, you see that your child’s school needs more money or that there aren’t enough jobs for everyone in your neighborhood or that you can’t get your mom out of the nursing home.

It’s helpful to find out more information about the issues that you think are important. One of the best ways to learn more is to read, listen or watch the news. If you want even more information, you can read on-line or go to your local library and ask for some guidance from the reference desk.

If you’ve figured out what is wrong, and even better, a good way to fix it, you’re ready for the next step.

3. Take action!
Once you know what’s important, you can…

Send information to your network
If there’s an issue that important to you, start talking about it with your friends and family. Post information on Facebook. Start a text that can be forwarded. It’s very helpful if you can tell them what action to take.

Write a letter to your elected officials
You can look up on-line to see who the right official is. See

In your letter, say why you are writing and who you are and provide your e-mail or home address. Provide factual details, if you can. If there is a certain bill or program involved, be sure to name it correctly. Also, provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. End your letter, by requesting the action you want the official to take (for example, voting for a bill or asking for a change in policy).

Start a petition
There are plenty of on-line tools, such as that make it really easy to gather other people that believe in the same idea that you do and collect signatures (mini votes) to bring to an elected official – a senator, congressman, the governor or even the president.

Ask RCIL for local and regional opportunities
If you’re new to making a difference, you can always ask for assistance from someone at RCIL. We have advocates with experience in finding ways for your voice to be heard. If you’re interested in learning more, we’d be happy to talk with you.

- Ellen