Educate to Advocate training encourages advocacy at Disability Day on the Hill

Rep. David Hawk, Rochelle Frazier-Beard, Nathan Fields, Evan Espey

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD) hosts the annual Educate to Advocate training event to encourage and to prepare trainees, professionals, self-advocates, and family members to meet with their legislators on issues that are important to them.

Rochelle Frazier-Beard

Rochelle Frazier-Beard

A panel kicked off the January 17, 2018, event and the discussion focused on how and why to share personal stories. Attendees received advice on making effective legislative visits from:

  • Representative David Hawk (District 5)
  • Rochelle Frazier-Beard, staff for Representative Bob Ramsey (District 20)
  • Nathan Fields, special educator and former VKC UCEDD and Vanderbilt Consortium LEND* trainee
  • Evan Espey, self-advocate and director of Outreach and Development, Technology Access Center
Carol Westlake

Carol Westlake

In addition to the panel discussion, Carol Westlake, Tennessee Disability Coalition executive director, provided updates on key federal and state issues that may affect individuals with disabilities in 2018.

Kelsey Loschke from Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) led attendees in an exercise to help them refine their messages for sharing with legislators. DRT also provided voter registration during the event to combat the dismal report that Tennessee ranks 50th in voter turnout.

“We offer this event each year with the hope that people will feel better prepared and less intimidated to meet with their representatives and senators about what matters to them,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., VKC UCEDD co-director, VKC director of Community Engagement and Public Policy, and senior lecturer in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “Educating legislators is part of our responsibilities as a UCEDD, and training advocates to share their experiences is one of the ways that we are able to contribute and make an impact in the realm of public policy.”

Communication staff from the Tennessee Developmental Disabilities and Independent Living Networks and other community agencies live-tweeted from the event. To read highlights, search the hashtags #E2A and #DDH2018. A full recording of the event is also available here.

Disability Day on the Hill

On February 14, Tennesseans with disabilities and their families and supporters will travel to the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville to meet with legislators during Disability Day on the Hill (DDH) and talk about issues that are important to the disability community.

Alongside community partners, staff from the VKC UCEDD, Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, and TennesseeWorks will live-tweet and will provide a live-stream from a panel discussion hosted by the Tennessee Disability Policy Alliance. For those who cannot attend in person, search for the hashtags #DDH2018 and #LetsGetTogether for coverage of the panel discussion.

The panel discussion includes representatives from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, TennCare, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, as well as legislators, a parent advocate, and a self-advocate. The event will take place from 10 to 11:45 a.m. in the Old Supreme Court Room in the Capitol.

Rise to work, a blog of the TennesseeWorks partnership, has a DDH post that pulls together all of the relevant day of details in one place.

*LEND-Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Courtney Taylor is VKC associate director of Communications and Dissemination.

Pictured top of page: Rep. David Hawk, Rochelle Frazier-Beard, Nathan Fields, Evan Espey. Photos by Sarah Mustian.


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