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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Advocate for Policy Reform or Legislation

Be an effective advocate for change

To be an effective advocate for change, you need to:

  • Know your target audience (legislators, government officials, editorial boards)
  • Develop and widely distribute a strong and consistent message
  • Regularly review your progress

EFE provides timely information about public policy and legislative initiatives through action alerts and weekly updates about bills in the Illinois General Assembly.  You may also receive information about pending state legislation, legislative committee hearings and your legislators in the House and Senate by visiting the Illinois General Assembly website.

How to develop  a clear message and understand your audience   

Before you act to advocate for change, take steps to prepare.

  • Identify the key players.  Find out which people or organizations make or influence disability policies, rules or laws.
  • Be clear about your issue.  Identify your issue or concern and state it simply and briefly.
  • Spell out what you want done.  Clearly state what action you want the key players to take — for example, vote in favor of a bill or change a policy or rule.
  • Know your facts.  Be prepared to talk about your issue and give reasons why it is important and why your position is worthy of support.
  • Have information on hand to provide.  Write a short (one-page) fact sheet to describe and support your issue.

Get out there: Be active and visible

Take part in activities and events that will let you communicate your message to the people or groups who make the policies, rules and laws.

  • Be seen.  Attend meetings and public hearings, including legislative hearings and rallies. Serve on a committee, advisory board or task force. Be a volunteer.  These will help you build relationships and trust.
  • Be heard.  Make phone calls. Write letters or emails. Distribute fact sheets or fliers Talk to organizational and community leaders. Talk to elected officials especially your legislators. Issue public service announcements.
  • Find partners.  Invite others with similar interests and experiences to work with you toward a common goal.

You can download our sample letter and tips for talking to a policymaker or legislator to help you with your advocacy below:

Be patient but persistent

Remember that changes in policies, rules or laws are achieved through ongoing advocacy and coalition-building.

  • Keep at it.  Effective advocacy takes time and persistent action.  Continue your efforts to build the support and buy-in you need to be successful, even if it means repeating your actions.
  • Be patient, but keep working.  Realize that change can be slow, but does require some  movement.
  • Check on how it’s going.  If your message isn’t being heard or your methods aren’t getting results, take another look at your action plan.  What’s working and what’s not?  What haven’t you tried?  What could you do differently?

Green circle clip art with the word MORE written inside it.


Last updated: August 13, 2018

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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