Mark Your Calendar for Feb. 8 for Disability Day on the Hill

By Janet Shouse

About the Author

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Janet Shouse is a parent of a young adult with autism, and she is passionate about inclusion, employment of people with disabilities, medical issues related to developmental disabilities, supports and services, public policy, legislative initiatives, advocacy, and the intersection of faith and disability. She wears many hats at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, including one as a disability employment specialist for TennesseeWorks.

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org.

Disability Day on the Hill will be Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

I realize Feb. 8 is a workday, and I realize that for many of you to be able to attend, you will have to take time off from work. I would encourage you to consider this event a good use of your vacation time, if you have vacation time to use.

For those of you who stay at home and maybe have other children at home, I would encourage you to consider this event worth the time and trouble of getting to Nashville, finding a place to park, bringing your child or children with you, and spending a few hours at Legislative Plaza and the Capitol.

While the “official day” begins at 9:00 a.m. CST and ends at 2:00 p.m., you are welcome to come for part or all of Disability Day on the Hill.

Why do I think this one day is so important? There is strength in numbers. When we fill up the halls of Legislative Plaza, lawmakers notice.

Many groups and organizations have a “Day on the Hill,” and hundreds of people show up to talk about their issues and concerns with Tennessee legislators. Disability Day on the Hill is the one day set aside during the General Assembly’s legislative session when people with disabilities, their family members, friends and advocates gather at Legislative Plaza to help our representatives and senators understand the impact of disability on the lives of their fellow Tennesseans.

We, as members of the disability community, can help educate our policymakers about our experiences. Moreover, this year our advocacy may be more important than ever. The process is simple.

Preparation:

1. Find your legislators at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/ (in the upper right-hand corner, where it says “Find my legislator,” you’ll type in your address, and the names and photos of your state senator and state representative will appear. Click on the photos, and you will get their address and phone numbers.)
2. Call your two legislators and make appointments to meet with each one. Appointments usually last no more than 15 minutes or so. (I realize that for those of you who live in East or West Tennessee, it seems like a LONG drive for a 15-minute appointment, but you can learn a lot by spending some time at Legislative Plaza. Think of it as an educational field trip.)
3. We would very much appreciate it if you are planning to attend to register at Disability Day on the Hill. We can offer suggestions on places to park and maps. If you would like someone to accompany you on your visits with your legislators, we can arrange that.
4. Numerous disability organizations develop fliers with points for you to share about particular legislation, and most will have copies available at Legislative Plaza. However, the most important thing is for you to share your life experiences with your legislators and let them know that disability policy is important to you and your family. The TennesseeWorks table will have business cards that you can print your name, phone number and email address on to leave with your legislators, so they can contact if they want.
5. There are two advocacy training opportunity prior to Disability Day on the Hill. The annual Clifton Government Relations Legislative Skills Training & Tour takes place on Jan. 4, 2017, from 9:30 to noon CST in Room 16 at Legislative Plaza. This free, introductory-level legislative skills training will be followed by a tour of Legislative Plaza and the State Capitol. To register, click here. Also see Stewart’s tips for advocacy:
Tips for In-Person Visits 
How to Act Like You Were “Raised Right” When at the Legislature: 10 Basic “DO NOTS” to Remember
In addition, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center offers Educate to Advocate, on Jan. 25, 2017, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. CST, in Room 241, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, 110 Magnolia Circle, Nashville. See the VKC website for more details at http://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/events/5829.

On Feb. 8, Disability Day on the Hill:

1. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, drive to downtown Nashville, and find a place to park near Legislative Plaza, 301 6th Avenue North. (Here is a map with parking lots marked: https://www.google.com/maps/search/Parking+lots+near+Legislative+Plaza/@36.1644393,-86.7836272,17z And be prepared to pay between $8 and $20, depending on how long you stay.)
2. You will enter Legislative Plaza, and the entrance is BELOW War Memorial Plaza, at the corner of 6th Avenue North and Union Street. You will need a state-issued photo ID to get in, and you will go through security.
3. If you have time, stop by the TennesseeWorks table to pick up your TennesseeWorks business cards. You can also visit other tables set up in the main hallway to gather information and talking points from multiple disability-related organizations.
4. There will also be a short program, beginning at 10 a.m., which will feature several speakers about disability-related policy work that you may want to attend. This is generally held in the Capitol Building.
5. Meet with your legislators! Let them know the top three things that are important to you… is it transportation? Employment? Health care? Long-term supports and services? Inclusion in your school or community
6. Sit in on a committee hearing if you have the time. Hearing legislators discuss legislation can be very enlightening.
7. Meet lots of people working to improve supports and services for Tennesseans with disabilities! You can even stop by and say “hello” to me!

If you have never met with your legislator, it can seem a little overwhelming. These individuals seem like big, important people. But they are also farmers, bankers, lawyers, insurance agents, ministers, businesspeople, teachers, doctors, and social workers. They have been elected to represent YOU, and you provide a perspective that most of them do not have. Please help educate them on what is important to you and your family, and begin to build a relationship with your legislators.

On Feb. 7, the night before DDH, the Tennessee Disability Coalition will host a Legislative Reception at 6:00 p.m. CST at the Sheraton Hotel. You can eat and drink, mix and mingle, but you must register to attend. You can call 615-383-9442 to register.

I hope you will join us for Disability Day on the Hill! And for the training session and the Legislative Reception.

Once you meet your lawmakers, the process of contacting your senator and representative on issues that are important to you becomes much easier.

After Disability Day on the Hill:

  1. Remember to send a thank you note or email to your legislators after your meetings.
  2. Stay in touch with your legislators.

If you have any questions about Disability Day on the Hill, setting up appointments, what to talk about, or anything else, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org or call me at 615-875-8833.

I’m looking forward to it!

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