What is Advocacy? | The Arc of DC

What is Advocacy?

There are various types of advocacy: self-advocacy, group advocacy, legal advocacy, issue-based advocacy, and professional advocacy. But no matter how you approach it, advocating is a powerful way of speaking up for those who need support, of providing a united voice to propel an issue into the public eye.

At The Arc of DC we know that parents, relatives, and caregivers of children with special needs can find themselves challenged and frustrated by school rules, state legislation, or federal law that seems not to respect the rights and responsibilities of individuals with developmental disabilities.

The Arc of DC has always been a strong advocate and mentor for the developmentally disabled, and expends a vast amount of energy and resources to ensure that every voice is heard, every need answered. If you would like to make a difference in the life of a loved one, please review our advocacy tips.

The most effective way to start advocating is to contact your legislator. Visit these official websites to send an email to your senator or your representative.

To write a letter to your senator, address it to:

The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of)Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

To write a letter to your representative, address it to:
The Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of)House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

When writing to your legislator, follow these tips:

  • Type your letter; nothing handwritten
  • Keep it short – no more than one page
  • Give your background – indicate that you’re a parent of a person with a disability, for example
  • Explain clearly why you oppose or support the proposed bill
  • Identify the bill if you have the name and number
  • Give examples to illustrate your point
  • Remain courteous.

To speak to your senator or representative by phone, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask to speak to the aide who works with your senator or representative on the specific issue that concerns you. Identify yourself and explain why you do or don’t support the proposed bill. You can even request that your senator or representative send you a written response to your call.

Remember that getting a law passed is a long and arduous process requiring many, many steps. But don’t be discouraged! Here’s the basic sequence of events:

  • the bill is referred to a committee in the House or the Senate
  • the item is listed on that committee’s calendar
  • the bill is reviewed, usually by a subcommittee
  • the subcommittee marks up the bill with its amendments and passes it on to the committee
  • the full committee reviews the bill and decides whether or not to “order it reported” to the House or Senate
  • the committee writes a full report on the bill, including the President’s position on the issue
  • the bill is placed on the Senate or House calendar
  • the bill is debated in chambers and passed or defeated
  • if it is passed in the Senate, the bill is referred to the House, and vice versa
  • the bill returns to the original chamber. If there are major changes, a committee is formed to discuss these amendments
  • once a bill is approved, it is sent to the President to sign. At this point it becomes law.

For more information about advocacy, please call us at (202) 636-2950.