Statewide Advanced Leadership and Public Policy Advocacy Training
- More than 600 individuals were trained during one or more conference events
- Five annual conferences and two additional training events were conducted
- Five pre-conference training sessions were held on legislative agendas and how to be involved in legislative advocacy
- Seven visits to the State Capitol were organized
- Five mock legislative hearings were held for participants to practice their testimonials
- Five rallies were organized which provided a platform for individuals to voice their needs to the public and legislators, some of which drew media attention
There is a continued need for the development of training programs and resources to assist Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families learn leadership and advocacy skills. To do this, leadership development and advocacy skills training programs must exist in many different areas around the state. Because it is unlikely that any one organization can provide enough funding to meet the demand, it is imperative that organizations that offer this kind of training work with others. This type of collaboration can help to increase the number of identified leadership development and advocacy training programs that can provide appropriate training for individuals with IDD.
Provide advanced leadership and advocacy training in addition to broad networking opportunities for adults and parents of children with IDD through an annual, three-day conference for disability advocates in Texas.
Texas A&M conducted five annual Texas Advanced Leadership and Advocacy Conferences (TALAC) and two additional training events (on pre and post-legislation issues). Each year’s conference theme was different so the sessions would meet individual needs based on hot topics of each year. A set of concurrent strands addressed legislative, school, agency and organizational advocacy, as well as grassroots organizations, public speaking and leadership skills. National-level keynote speakers were carefully selected to match the theme of each year’s conference.
In addition, networking opportunities were provided to conference participants, including through dinner and evening activities. A variety of presentations were offered by speakers representing organizations across Texas. Participants were able to learn from famous self-advocates, state agency staff, elected officials and/or their staff and parents.
A visit to the State Capitol was scheduled during each of the annual conferences and training events. A mock legislative hearing was organized during each conference to provide participants with the opportunity to practice their testimonials in a simulated setting. A rally was scheduled for each conference to provide a platform for individuals with IDD to voice their needs and get their message to the public and legislators. Some years TALAC was able to work with other disability advocacy organizations to organize the rallies, producing huge impacts due to a large number of participants and media exposure.
A regional leadership structure was developed with opportunities for individuals with IDD to take a leadership role in advancing legislative goals. TALAC also maintained online, email and social media communications with conference participants for follow-up training and information on emerging issues and legislative developments. Partnerships with various organizations were developed to promote collaboration on common goals, as well as strategies and activities to sustain the conference.