- CAL Blog - By Barbara Davis -
With all of the budget cuts and reduction in services going on in these difficult economic times, many of us are left feeling frustrated and helpless. We think there is nothing we can do to keep our services afloat, let alone get new ones started. This is so not true. Even in hard times, we have the power and the tools to make a difference. Below are some of the ways we can utilize our clout as persons with disabilities (the largest political minority) to keep existing services alive, or start up new ones.
This should go without saying. It is the most important tool we have in our arsenal. I know, all of the candidates seem like idiots and nobody you vote for ever wins. But once those people get into office, your voting clout can make a big difference.
Participate in surveys
Surveys often seem like an unnecessary waste of our precious time. But for those of us with disabilities, surveys are a way of letting product manufactures and service providers know what we need, and what does and doesn’t work for us. Do we really want to let people without disabilities decide that for us?
A letter to the editor or to your local legislator can have more impact that most people realize. Blogging and social networking are also great platforms for voicing your opinion and possibly effecting change in some small (or even big – look at the effect of Twitter on recent earthquakes) way. If you don’t have a clue how to get started with blogging or social networking, do a “how to” Google search. There is plenty of free information about both of these venues.
Make phone calls
The more phone calls a legislator gets in favor of or against an issue or piece of legislation, the more the politicians are likely to pay attention and vote in favor of or against said issue or legislature. So register to vote, go out and vote in the next election, and keep abreast of the issues by listening to the news and searching the internet. You can sign up for newsletters and email alerts all over the web about your pet issues, including ours: http://www.calky.org/listserv/. Then, if legislature comes up regarding these issues, CALL, and urge others to call. It does make a difference.
Be part of a crowd
Political rallies and other public functions don’t garner much attention if only a few people are present. If a huge crowd shows up, it can gain all kinds of media attention and help your issue to come to the attention of lawmakers and others who have the necessary clout to do something. When a lot of people show up at public forums or meetings to voice their opinions, things can happen. A prime example of this is TARC’s recent attempts at reducing and eliminating several bus routes. Riders spoke out at public forums, thereby saving some of those routes. If you are passionate about an issue, encourage as many people as you can to attend the corresponding rally or public forum with you.
I volunteer with several nonprofits because I believe in what they do. Most of the work I do is from home, like this blog article. When people learn that I volunteer at these places, they ask questions about the organizations, and often ask how they can become involved. As a result of these conversations, some of my friends and relatives have donated money or used items/clothing to these organizations. Others have become volunteers themselves. With reduction in funding, many of these places rely completely on volunteers in order to continue providing services. If you would like find a place to volunteer, visit http://www.volunteermatch.org.
If you have no money to give, like a lot of us these days, there are still ways to donate and help a favored nonprofit. Volunteering your time, as stated above, is one way. Donating used furniture, appliances, vehicles, clothing, food and other items is another way. Participating in fundraising drives and activities is also an excellent way to raise money and have fun at the same time. There are several sports, from bowling to golfing to swimming, etc. that find their way into fundraising ventures. Keep yourself informed about them and participate. You can have fun, make new friends and help a worthy cause at the same time.
Many government agencies and nonprofits have newsletters that you can sign up for. Google has “Google Alerts” that you can sign up for. It is also easy to check news websites or do a Google search for the topics that interest you. In this way you can stay abreast of pending legislation, fundraising activities, and services that may be facing elimination or reduction. When you are informed, it is much easier to take appropriate action and let your voices be heard.