Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee Offers Unique Help for Disability Day on the Hill
By Alecia Talbott
Alecia Talbott is the executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee (DSAMT) and parent of three, including a son with Down syndrome. She received her BA & MA from Western Kentucky University, taught at Nashville State and Volunteer State Community Colleges and directed marketing at Passport Health Communications, Inc. before joining DSAMT in 2012. Alecia advocates for inclusion and acceptance for those with Down syndrome and other disabilities in the community and schools, having completed Wrightslaw Advocacy Training and the Vanderbilt Volunteer Advocacy Program as well as other advocacy trainings. She conducts the Down Syndrome Specialist Training Program, which trains educators on best practices for student success. She also serves on the Disability Coalition for Education, the Education Committee of Autism Tennessee, Vanderbilt’s Disability Pathfinder Advisory Committee, and the Tennessee Disability Coalition Board of Directors. In 2016, the Nashville Business Journal named Alecia the Woman of the Year in the non-profit category.
Disability Day on the Hill, which will be Feb. 8, 2017, is an important day for families to share their personal stories with state representatives and senators to help them understand how the decisions they make on legislative issues affect individuals with Down syndrome and their families. The Down Syndrome Association of Middle TN (DSAMT) strongly encourages all our families to attend each year. Our presence at this event will demonstrate to our legislators that individuals with Down syndrome are a vibrant, important part of our community and must be supported on a government level – and the more who attend, the stronger our voice.
We know that for some the idea of meeting with lawmakers can seem overwhelming, and DSAMT educates and supports them, so that they are more comfortable with the process. Prior to the event, we provide families and self-advocates with template letters and samples of how to talk to their representatives. We also talk with families 1:1 to help them learn to tell their stories. We create leave-behind letters addressing important legislative issues that families can share, and DSAMT hosts an information table at the event for last-minute questions and support. Families and self-advocates can also request a DSAMT representative attend with them. This year, our families will meet and ride together on a private bus, so they don’t even have to worry about parking.
Specifically for our self-advocates, DSAMT will host a training session on how to meet with legislators in January 2017 in order to prepare for DDH. Our experienced self-advocates will share their stories and help others to write theirs.
As parents, we learn quickly that we need to be strong advocates for AND WITH our children throughout their lives, and legislative advocacy is so important. DSAMT is here to help. You can learn more about DSAMT at http://somethingextra.org/.
Also, TennesseeWorks will be hosting a registration site for Disability Day on the Hill, which should be ready in early December. More news on that soon!