Arc Blog

Advocacy in Action

Stacy Ceder - Tuesday, April 03, 2018
The following is Sima Thorpe's letter as featured in our 2017 Annual Report. 
By Sara Walch & Sima Thorpe

Advocacy has always been a mainstay of what The Arc does. But being an advocate, taking part in advocacy can sound like an enigma. What is “advocacy”? What makes someone an “advocate”? At the barest bones, advocacy means “the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending” and an advocate is “a person who pleads for or on behalf of another”. Within the disability community, advocates and advocacy efforts are invaluable. Sometimes, advocacy looks like a parent discussing support options for their child at school. Or it can look like a guardian finding the most practical form of transportation for a loved one with a disability. Advocates are everywhere, every moment, to support someone in standing up to get their daily needs met. It can be on a small scale, but those moments of advocacy victory could mean the world to someone. 

Sometimes, advocacy means reaching for the big picture. It means a group of voices coming together and doing whatever it takes to make their message heard. Last year, groups of advocates came together and raised their voices to Washington legislators to stand up for what would have a big impact on people with disabilities. The Arc of Spokane hosts a variety of options for bringing together advocates: coordinating post card drives to mail to legislators, using social media to let people know what bills are coming to votes and who to contact regarding them, trips to Olympia where people can speak directly to legislators, or leave personalized letters and stories detailing why legislation should shift in one direction or another. The results of these trips had a huge impact on the disability community here in Washington. Thanks to small groups of people coming together and raising their voices high:

Direct Support Professionals will see a $2.25 increase over the next two years
Personal Needs Allowance Funding is provided for an annual cost-of-living adjustment to the personal needs allowance of Medicaid clients in community/institutional setting.
Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, funding is provided to support an expansion of the state’s special education program. 
Reduction of training hours for respite provider care (working under 300 hours per year) for a person with I/DD. Training is now online and reduced from 35 hours to 14 hours. 
Setting employment standards for para-educators to get a para-educator associate of arts degree. 

Advocates in Action, Olympia, WA , 2/7/18

Advocacy plays a huge role in ensuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are able to live their lives the way that makes sense to each individual. Bills passed regarding education issues set the stage for appropriate education and furthering what each child can accomplish. Bills passed regarding respite care means that families have the ability to choose the best possible caregiver, regardless of more formalized overall training; a family friend who has known the person with I/DD for years and knows the families values and means of support can be compensated without having to take a week off of work. Bills passed for an increase in caregiver wages means that higher quality caregivers can make a living wage and are much more likely to remain in the field, whose experience and rapport with their clients are invaluable. 

With the great strides that were made on the state level, there is more work to be done on the federal level.  Advocates across the nation contacted their members of congress about harmful attacks to the ACA, Medicaid and SSI. While they successfully killed the bills last summer, cuts resurfaced in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA )and passed on December 20th 2017. Locally The Arc coordinated call in to Congress, sent emails, met one on one with our Congresswoman and or their staff, and hosted a rally. 

Even with all these efforts, the House and Senate passed the TCJA on December 20, 2017 by votes of 224 to 201and 51 to 48, respectively. President Trump signed the measure into law two days later. Though the final version of the legislation removed some of the objectionable provisions from prior versions, such as repeal of the medical expense deduction, the work opportunity tax credits, and the disabled access credit, The Arc strongly opposes this legislation. The TCJA repeals the individual mandate to have health insurance, leading to 13 million fewer people with coverage over 10 years, and increases the deficit by nearly $1.5 trillion over a decade, adding pressure to cut Medicaid and other critical programs while providing tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the most affluent and large corporations. 

What this means is that our work as advocates is far from over. However, we should take heart that our efforts will not be in vain. The accomplishments of what individual voices coming together as one can never be understated. We ask that you continue to join The Arc of Spokane in it’s calls to advocacy: follow us on social media to get information on what bills are coming to a vote and how to contact your representatives, join us in Olympia, participate in rallies. Make your voice heard, for those with I/DD are counting on you. 
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