Family to Family Network — Local Advocacy Training

Local Advocacy Training

Statewide Need
To help ensure that the interests of all citizens in Texas are represented in public policy discussions and decisions, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families must have the opportunity to participate actively in the policymaking process. By serving as primary sources for information regarding the real-life impacts of legislative and policy decisions, they can provide legislators and other policymakers with an understanding of the needs of individuals with IDD and their families. Through advocacy training programs, people with IDD and their families can provide substantive input to policymakers about programs, services and issues directly affecting their lives, and local advocacy networks can provide a range of support to individual advocates in their communities.

Project Goal
Provide training and support to develop leadership and advocacy skills for individuals with IDD, their families, and other community members and organizations.

Project Summary
The Disability Leadership Network of Houston (DLNH) was created as a two-tiered leadership training program modeled after the Partners in Policymaking program. The network was designed specifically for people in the Greater Houston area who have a vested interest in the issues and policies affecting people with IDD. DLNH gave adults with IDD, family members and professionals the opportunity to connect with each other and learn from experts about current disability issues, best practices, decision-making processes, and how to impact those decisions. The program gave participants the knowledge, resources and skills to create positive changes that make a difference in the lives of people with IDD.

DLNH provided training and networking opportunities to community members wanting to impact the lives of people with IDD. The program hosted a minimum of four free public trainings per year. The trainings covered a variety of topics important to people with IDD, including disability awareness, education, service systems, and city and state government. DLNH also hosted an annual Resource Fair that featured more than 40 disability organizations and service providers each year, offering an opportunity for people with IDD and community members to connect with available resources and network with each other.

In addition to public trainings and events, DLNH administered a free eight-month training course each year, attended by adults with IDD, family members, professionals and other community members. The class was selected to represent the diversity of the Greater Houston area as a whole, representing diversity in disabilities, ethnicity, and levels of advocacy experience. Participants were provided the necessary supports to successfully complete the program, including, transportation, personal assistance services, simultaneous interpretation and translated materials, respite, and natural supports.

Each class met for seven full-day training sessions. Experts were brought in from across the country to conduct trainings on session topics, including The History of the Disability Rights Movement and Disability Awareness, Inclusive Education, Life Beyond School and Self-Determination, Planning for the Future, Impacting Local Decision Making, and Impacting State Legislation. Class participants learned communication and public speaking skills and developed a network of connections, supports and resources. Adults with IDD, family members and professionals shared their insight and experiences with each other to become effective advocates who can work together on behalf of people with disabilities.

Class participants were asked to complete an “Advocacy Activities” form each month of the training, which asked participants to summarize how they used information and skills gained through the DLNH program. This form provided data on the types of advocacy work participants were using their training to accomplish, the number of people they were impacting, and the amount of time they were spending on advocacy-related work between class sessions.

The program hosted two networking dinners for graduates of the DLNH program to reconnect with each other and support each other in their advocacy efforts.

  • Impact
    • 55 people graduated from the eight-month training program
      • Class members reported utilizing the information, resources and skills gained through the DLNH program to impact more than 35,500 people, including contacting 440 policymakers
      • Over 7,000 hours were spent by class members on advocacy related activities
    • 246 individuals attended the 13 free public trainings
    • 385 individuals attended the three hosted resource fairs
    • Attendees received information to help in planning and problem solving

Project Period
Aug 2004 – Jul 2007

16255 Park Ten Pl. #500
Houston, TX 77084

Geographic Reach
Greater Houston Area