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Just The Way You Are - Disability Days on the Hill

         The state legislature often hosts "Days on the Hill" for a wide array of groups or topics. The name "Day on the Hill" comes from the fact that the capitol building is perched atop a high hill right in the middle of downtown Nashville, and the day gives people a chance to gather for at wide variety of topics. Anyone can come to the state capitol and speak with legislators at any time that the legislature is in session, but attending during a "Day on the Hill" lets legislators know you are passionate about an issue. 

     Days on the Hill are a very important part of the legislative process because they are one major way that legislators get informed about topics and how their constituents stand on certain issues. It is also a way to make a presence. When dozens or even hundreds of people gather for a common cause, those who create our laws have no choice but to pay attention. It is also a great opportunity to form a relationship with those who represent you in the law making body of our state government. Still need a few more reasons to attend? It provides a chance to meet with others involved in the disability community and to learn the latest on policies and legislation that affect the disabled community.

     This year the Tennessee Disability Coalition is  hosting three days known as "Disability Day on the Hill." This is your chance to meet with your senators and representatives and let them know what's important to you and why, when it comes to disability advocacy. The three Disability Days on the Hill this year are on February 29th, March 7th, and March 14th. On February 29th, Jim Henry, the Commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities will speak. On March 7th, the speaker will be Tre Hargett, the Secretary of State. On March 14th, the subject will be the Family Support Program.

     I encourage everyone to attend at least one of these Days on the Hill. These events aren't just for people who have disabilities. If you know or love someone with a disability, work with people with disabilities, or are just passionate about disability advocacy, then you should mark your calender and plan on attending! Make your voice known and let your legislators know what's important to you. Sarah Sampson, the Communications Coordinator for the Tennessee Disability Coalition, calls Disability Days on the Hill the ". . .treasure of the coalition." Go ahead and call your senator and your representative now and schedule an appointment to meet with them for ten or fifteen minutes to discuss disability issues with them. For your convenience, the Courier lists your legislators' names and contact information in the paper every week!

    Once you get an appointment made, began doing your research and finding out exactly what you want to say to your legislator. You don't have to write a formal speech, or make a PowerPoint presentation, but you do need to be prepared to advocate for disability issues. Pick out one or two things that are most important to you and focus on those. Find out everything you can about those issues and prepare a few statements that you want to make to your legislators. You should state what issue you are discussing, which way you want your legislator to vote, and why you want them to vote that way. Let them know how voting in the opposite will adversely affect the disability community.

     Ms. Sampson informed me of the hot topic this year among the disability community.  Since much of the disabled community is supported by state and federal funding, she explained, the budget is always one of the most significant issues. This year the Family Support Program is especially high on the agenda because it is not included in Governor Haslem's 2012-2012 budget.

     There is a ton of information on www.tndisability.org about Disability Days on the Hill including a link to an email to ask any questions you may have. You can find the dates and information about the happenings on each day of the event and also links to contacting your legislators, tracking their actions and votes in committees and sessions, and keeping up with the latest on disability issues in the legislature. This website is loaded full so please go and check it out!

     Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have comments, questions, or ideas, please e-mail me at laceybuchanan@gmail.com.




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