Champions for your Cause
The Mayor of Gymuri, Armenia meets with disability advocates in 2014
Whether a country is democratic or socialist, has a monarch, or is a federal republic, as long as there is some acknowledgement of the rule of law and a system of government representatives who create and administer those laws, it is important to have allies among those government representatives who understand disability rights.
Disability can be experienced in many ways and it transcends any political party, race, gender, and economic class. An individual can be born with a disability, acquire one through an accident or chronic condition, have a child or family member with a disability, age into a disability, or marry someone who is connected to disability in this way. Finding influential leaders who have experienced disability to be your champion is key. These are individuals who:
- Will have experience with, or at least be open to learning about, the multiple kinds of discrimination and barriers experienced by people with disabilities.
- Will be able to personally express the goals of disability rights laws and the reasons that laws are needed when they speak to their colleagues, and will be able to connect other disability rights leaders with important political and social forums.
- Will have trained legal staff that can assist with the actual development of bill language, and alert a disability coalition about opportunities and risks as a proposed bill advances toward becoming a law.
- If the government representative has disabilities him or herself, they also help fight a major stereotype that people with disabilities have limited capabilities and future prospects.
Politicians from both of the United States’ major political parties who fought to bring the Americans with Disabilities Act into law included a person with diabetes, a veteran who lost his arm fighting in a war, and a person with a deaf brother. A key staff person in the U.S. White House, who had watched her mother discriminated against by insurance companies because of a bout with cancer, was instrumental in ensuring that the 2008 Affordable Care Act of President Obama required private insurance companies to sell healthcare insurance to people with pre-existing conditions (historically healthcare in the U.S. excludes pre-existing conditions).