Advocacy & Public Policy
The independent living movement sprang from the advocacy efforts of thousands of people with disabilities pressing for their civil and human rights, and advocacy remains a central tenet of independent living today.
Colorado SILC occupies a unique position as a hub for local, state and national advocacy efforts.
- At the local level we support the training and community organizing work of Colorado’s 10 independent living centers as they mobilize their constituents to forge systemic change.
- At the state level, we advocate directly with Colorado’s legislators and policymakers to ensure the financial resources, programs and regulatory framework that will advance independent living.
- At the national level, we work with other statewide councils, national disability organizations, and Colorado’s statewide network of advocates to change federal laws and regulations that impact people with disabilities.
It is advocacy at the national level that brought about the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, but that landmark federal legislation would never have happened without the unremitting efforts at the community level that gradually changed the attitudes of voters and their representatives.
A combination of advocacy at the federal and state onhealthy.net levels has led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to adopt pilot programs or “Medicaid Waivers” that test the independent living movement’s contention that it is less expensive to provide support to a person with a disability in the community than it is to warehouse them in long-term care facilities.
Advocacy does not necessarily involve legislation—it is any concerted action that helps to change actions and attitudes. If enough people in wheelchairs—and their friends and family members—impress on a restaurant that while an accessible entrance through a garbage-strewn alley might be legal, but isn’t welcoming, eventually the garbage will be cleaned up. (Or the restaurant will go out of business and a new one that respects the wishes of all its customers may move into the neighborhood.)
Changing laws is important, but seasoned advocates understand that just because a law is on the books, doesn’t mean that it will be followed. People with disabilities know only too well that while legislation has the potential to change lives, that potential can only be realized through the unremitting efforts of committed advocates.