By Grant Heffelfinger, Youth Leadership Coordinator
Youth with disabilities have access to a vast amount of information from social media, news and editorials on a daily basis. I want to take the time to acknowledge the stress and/or pressure that this may place on someone and discuss some ideas for how to manage this in today’s technology-rich world.
If you are a young person with a disability, then you already understand what I am talking about. With all of the articles, reports and opinions being shared on- and offline, it can be difficult to understand how something affects you or how to take a stand on the issue.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you focus on learning about issues and deciding which to take action on:
Determine what you are passionate about. How do you prioritize issues that impact you?
Follow groups, organizations or movement leaders that have invested in a cause that affects you and is in line with what you believe in.
Get involved in organized activities that are hosted by these groups. This will allow you to contribute to the efforts that are being organized.
Know your limits. You will not be able to get involved with everything.
There are many ways you can influence and stand up for what you believe in and for the services and supports you need. Each person has their own story, their own experiences and their own ways of communicating.
An important approach for a young person is: tell your story.
Tell it loud. Tell it someplace where your political representatives may see or hear you. This can be done by making a phone call to your state or federal representative’s office, setting up an in-person meeting with your legislator’s office or participating in a demonstration in a public place that is in line with your beliefs and priorities.
Youth can also join coalitions or groups
of other young people who have the same beliefs and values as they do. Strength in numbers has been effective for many advocacy groups that have worked on changing government policies or influenced legislators to make inclusive decisions when it comes to legislation and policy. Joining a group of other young people with disabilities can help you improve your advocacy skills and practice with others in an encouraging and empowering environment. You will also likely make new friends or acquaintances in the process.
Young people in today’s world will have the opportunity to stand up to be leaders in the future. It is important to identify your own leadership skills and style. That way, you too will be able to advocate for what works for you and others with similar needs. During second Fridays at IndependenceFirst
, the Peer Power
youth group meets and catches up on current events, socializes and empowers group members to acknowledge their strengths and be confident leaders.
I want to leave you, the young people with disabilities out there, with one question to ponder: What are you doing to fight for your right to live free and independently?
Check out my next blog where I discuss an advocacy issue that youth with disabilities may wish to get involved in: the proposed American Health Care Act which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
| Thursday, 3/9/2017 - 4:40 PM
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