By Charlie Fiske
The success of what we do with legislators and their aides can often be traced to our relationships with them. This week Maura Sullivan (The Arc’s Director of Government Affairs) and I spent a morning walking the statehouse corridors with work sheets highlighting some spending requests for the senate’s budget plan. The Arc is requesting $11.4 Million for the Employment Blueprint, which helps people transition to meaningful jobs and community inclusion. The Arc is also addressing the reduction in Adult Family Care (AFC). We hope to reverse the removal of reimbursement for caregivers days off (14 days = $700) per caregiver. These requests are highlighted above the several other items we have advocated for over the past few months.
It seems that the moments of personal contact are when real communications begin.
Strangely, those brief moments don’t always relate to the budget or to developmental disabilities. We met a senate aide whose son participates in the same drama group as Maura’s daughter. The conversation centered on the importance of extra-curricular activities for students. Another conversation with a staff aide was about his Kingston high school where both of my children attended. In addition talk turned to my time with the Peace Corps in Africa and he shared that this something he is seriously considering as his next option.
Later we sat with another aide whose sport’s activity is rowing and the accommodations he makes as a person confined to a wheel chair. And finally there were the corridor conversations with a senator about his Facebook page and another representative about his previous job as a farmer.
All of these experiences are about communication and connecting with law makers and those working with them. Our budget messages about intellectual and developmental disabilities seem to fall on more receptive ears once we have shared with each other and develop more points of contact. Looking for what connects us is the first step in opening up the second conversation about our mission regarding some budget concerns needed to improve the lives of those served by The Arc.
When we forget the importance of listening first then what we have to say becomes harder to hear.