Thursday, July 22, 2010

Each of our problems are "our" problems

"We have to stop working in silos. Each of our problems are our problems."

The quote above came from a guest speaker at a meeting of the Justice For All Action Network Steering Committee on July 20. The entire Steering Committee met face to face for the first time since the network started a year and a half ago. As a national, grassroots, disability organization, Little People of America was asked to join the Steering Committee of the Justice For All Action Network when it first formed in the wake of the 2008 Presidential Election.

The meeting was in Washington, D.C. in the midst of the National Council on Independent Living's Annual Conference. The speaker was asked to comment on progress of the disability community in terms of integrating policy issues into the Obama Administration's Agenda. The speaker said the community needs to be more strategic, and work together in a coordinated effort to advance policy that benefits everyone. If each group pursues a separate agenda, the community as a whole will struggle to move forward.

Important feedback for the at-large disability community, and specifically for Little People of America. Over the past year or so, LPA has been conscientious of developing a more strategic approach to advocacy -- attacking issues from a systemic perspective rather than a purely reactionary perspective. But LPA has room to grow in terms of internal and external power, and could do so if the organization were to identify policy issues that benefit LPA and impact disability groups outside of LPA. If we were to work with other groups on a joint campaign (i.e. anti-bullying legislation), LPA membership would witness the support of groups outside of our own, and outside constituencies would witness the support of LPA. This could empower the LPA membership to organize and rally more tightly around specific issues, while also enhancing our credibility in the broader disability community as well as the general population.

This is not entirely new to LPA. LPA participated in JFAAN's efforts to pass inclusive health care reform legislation. But we have the opportunity to do more, and we need to do more, not just for the sake of LPA, but for the sake of the larger community. By identifying policy issues around which we share common ground with other organizations, we not only will build more power as a community and an organization, we could improve the lives of people with disabilities and people with dwarfism.
(photo -- the day after the JFAAN Meeting, as part of the NCIL Conference, we marched to the U.S. Capitol for a 20th Anniversary ADA Celebration Rally. In this photo are JFAAN members Andy Imparato of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Kelly Buckland of NCIL; and Tony Coehlo, the orginal author of the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

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