Best Buddies Seminar – by Stephanie Woodward
In January I was invited to speak at Best Buddies Florida about lobbying and the importance of self-advocacy. I met with teams of Best Buddies Ambassadors to discuss current disability rights issues that they could talk about with their representatives in the Florida Legislature. Since each team of Ambassadors had one person with an intellectual disability and one nondisabled person, I talked to them about the roles of self-advocates and allies and how they can work together to be effective.
Since the Ambassadors were high school students they wanted to know what issues affect them that they could talk to their representatives about, so we discussed student loans; access to higher education for students with disabilities; ending subminimum wage so that the students could be paid fair wages when they begin working; and creating affordable, accessible, integrated housing so that the students could live independently in the community after they graduate.
The Ambassadors also had questions about what they should do if their representative rushes them or tries to control the conversation. We discussed different ways to handle these scenarios and practiced different things they wanted to say.
In the end, the Ambassadors were very excited to go to Tallahassee to advocate for disability rights and I was excited to see new young leaders for the Disability Rights Movement.