Learning Effective Advocacy Strategies with Lisa Thomas of the American Federation of Teachers
Rockville, Md., June 28 – “The lack of cohesive, consistent messaging is the Achilles heel of the disability community,” Dr. Lisa Thomas told a group of RespectAbility Fellows earlier this month. “We do have competing priorities.”
Thomas, the Associate Director and Special Education Policy Analyst at the American Federation of Teachers, spoke about strategies and tactics advocating for employment of people with disabilities. Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. However, of the 22-million working-age people with disabilities, only one-in-three are employed. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits.
“Really look at the return on investment,” advised Thomas. Employees with disabilities are not only contributing members of society, they are “less likely to require additional taxpayer funded services.”
Thomas also emphasized the importance of using hard data and building coalitions to support your advocacy. “The team is not complete unless you have representatives from all of your constituent communities,” she said.
Thomas, whose daughter has a disability, said her advocacy is driven by a belief that “real dollars create real opportunity.”
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RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact BenS@RespectAbility.org for more information.
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