Advocacy Tools

In this section, you will find various tools to navigate the information on public policy.

Advocacy Guides

These helpful PDF’s provide an overview and in depth guide to legislative advocacy.

How You Can Help

This section contains tools such as the Action Center and links to additional advocacy resources.

Public Testimony

Testimonies written by friends of The Arc on important issues and are great examples on how to write your own.

Useful Information

Here you will find information about the Massachusetts State House and Government Affairs Committee.

Advocacy Guides

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Letters to the editor are one of the best (and easiest) ways to get an unfiltered message about a particular issue out to the community. They are generally brief, to the point, and in response to a previously written article, or other public event. One of the reasons that they are so effective is the fact that after the front page and the comics page, more people read the editorial page than any other section of the paper (even Sports!). Furthermore, letters to the editor carry a certain credibility because they come from average citizens, and the public does not view them with the same bias with which they view the rest of the paper. You can usually find the address to send your letter to the editor on the editorial page of the paper.

Letters to the editor are used to respond to a news event, not to create news. Therefore, in writing a letter to the editor, you generally want to begin by referring to a previously published article in the newspaper, or to a well-known event. Referring to a previously written article helps make the letter relevant to the newspaper staff, and it is more likely to get printed. The reference to a previously article or event should generally be in the first line of your letter to the editor, to help set the stage for whatever point you are going to make.

Following your opening sentence, you should immediately begin to make the case for why you are writing the letter. If the news story that was written missed an important point, say so, and explain why it is important. If a news event did not provide the full story, give the full story. If someone gave an explanation that was unclear or misleading, clarify the point for the newspapers’ readers. One word of caution, however: While letters to the editor can be used to criticize an elected official, they should usually only be used in this way as a means of last resort. Office holders generally remember those people and organizations that have criticized them publicly, and they are not likely to forgive or forget a harsh letter in their local newspaper.

Finally, when you close the letter to the editor, you should include some call to action for the general public. What exactly this is will depend on the circumstances, but it could be calling their member of Congress, attending a meeting, or writing a letter to the school superintendent. But it is important that there be some call to action to round out the letter.

The length of your letter to the editor depends on your local paper. Different papers like different length letters. If you send in a letter that is too long, either it won’t be printed, or it will be cut down to the size the paper wants. The best thing to do is to read the letters to the editor that are printed, and count out how long each on is. This should give you a good idea of how long your letter should be. In general, it is better to have a shorter letter than a longer one, as it is more likely to be read. However, you still need to make all of the points that you want to make.

When you send in your letter to the editor, you must include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Your name is needed because anonymous letters are not as credible as those that are signed, and the large majority of newspapers will not publish them anyway. Your address is critical because newspapers prefer to print letters from local readers, and once again, it has more credibility to elected officials. Your phone number is necessary because a newspaper will only print your letter once they have verified that you actually wrote it.

Many newspapers now allow you to send letters to the editor by e-mail. Visit here for contact information for media outlets in your area, or to submit letters to the editor online.

Developed by the Public Policy Collaboration for The Arc. Adapted for use by The Arc of Massachusetts.

How You Can Help

You can help promote The Arc of Massachusetts’ efforts by contacting your elected official to ask for their support (or opposition) to bills that are part of the official Arc platform.

  • Use The Arc US Action Center and The Arc of Massachusetts Take Action Center to contact your state and federal legislators and take action on the alerts posted. The Action Center also includes a media guide, which allows you to automatically send messages to several newspapers, television and radio stations at once.
  • If you have a story to tell or a letter you wish to send to the editor, the media guide makes it simple.
  • Join The Arc in advocating for community-based supports and services! You can sign up now to be on our email list and stay up to date on events and information.

Public Testimonies

The Arc of Massachusetts often testifies before the Massachusetts Legislature about our position on various subjects including the State Budget, proposed legislation, or issues affecting policy. Volunteer participation is an important part of our advocacy in this area as well. Below you will find a “How To” guide to providing testimony as well as examples of the public testimony The Arc and our members have given.

How to Provide Testimony

Below is a step-by-step guide to providing verbal and/or written testimony at the State House. Includes tips and instructions on providing testimony, and sample testimony.

Providing Testimony

Hearings are usually held in Gardner Auditorium, or Hearing Rooms A-1, A-2, B1 or B-2. It is difficult to anticipate the order in which bills will be heard, so plan to stay at a hearing for the duration which may sometimes be the entire day. If you wish to provide verbal testimony, you will need to sign in at the foyer outside of the hearing room, where there is usually a table and a clipboard. If applicable, you may wish to include the name of an organization with which you are affiliated with, or your home-town. We strongly urge you to call your own state representative and senator to ask that they both support the bill, and join you at the hearing (call The Arc at 781-891-6270 if you need help identifying your legislator). Legislators are used to these requests and if they are unable to attend, they may send a staff person on their behalf to greet you. After signing in, you will enter the hearing room and take a seat on one of the benches located at the rear of the room.

When to Speak and What to Say

You do not have to provide written testimony, but it is expected that if you choose to offer verbal testimony, you will provide some written statement to accompany your spoken words. We encourage you to provide enough copies for each member of the Committee (bring at least 15 if you are unsure of number of Committee members). You may provide written testimony without speaking. If you choose to speak, we encourage you NOT to simply read your written testimony. The Committee will want to hear, in your own words, why you are supporting the bill. Speak plainly and do not try to make more than a few points during your presentation, which should not exceed 3 minutes. Personal anecdotes and observations are the most effective components of good verbal testimony.

The Committee Chair will moderate the hearing and call names from the sign-in sheet. He/she may call people in groups, or individually, to sit before the Committee at a table. The Chair will indicate when it is time for you to speak. After you are finished speaking, members of the Committee are free to ask you questions – their job is to make a decision on the bill, so they may wish to understand more clearly, your own experience. Take your time if asked a question, and do not guess if you don’t know the answer. Sometimes people feel nervous and speak before thinking. This is natural. If you feel nervous, take a breath and pause to gather your thoughts before answering a question – nobody will rush you to speak. When you are done, the Committee Chair will ask the next person to speak. You may then leave the room or move back to the rear to listen to others testify.

The Ten Informal Rules of Lobbying

1. Consider yourself an information source. Legislators have limited time, staff, and interest on any one issue. They can’t be as informed as they might like on all the issues – or the ones that concern you. You can fill the information gap.

2. Tell the truth. There is no faster way to lose your credibility than to give false or misleading information to a legislator.

3. Know who else is on your side. It is helpful for a legislator to know what other groups, individuals, state agencies and/or legislators are working with you on an issue.

4. Know the opposition. Anticipate who the opposition will be – organized or individual. Tell the legislator what their arguments are likely to be and provide them with answers and rebuttals to those arguments.

5. Make the legislator aware of any personal connection you may have. No matter how insignificant you may feel it is, if you have friends, relatives, and/or colleagues in common, LET THEM KNOW. Our legislative process is very informal and though it may make no difference in your effectiveness, it may make the difference.

6. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. If the legislator wants information you don’t have, or asks something you don’t know, tell them and then offer to get the information they are looking for.

7. Be specific about what you are asking for. If you want a vote, information, answers to a question – whatever it is – make sure you ask directly and get an answer.

8. Follow up. It is very important to find out if your legislator did what he/she said they would. It is very important that you then thank them if they did, or ask them for an explanation as to why they did not vote as they said they would, etc…

9. Don’t “burn any bridges.” It is very easy to get emotional over issues you feel strongly about. That’s fine, but be sure that no matter what happens you leave your dealings on good enough terms that you can go back to them. Remember, your strongest opposition on one issue may be your strongest ally on the next.

10. REMEMBER YOU ARE THE BOSS! Your tax money pays the legislators’ salaries, pays for the paper they write on, the phone they call you on. You are the employer and they are the employee. You should be courteous, but don’t be intimidated. They are responsible to you and nine times out of ten, legislators are grateful for your input.

Senate Hearing on CRPD - Testimony

On November 6, 2013 The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Below is part of the letter from The Arc of Massachusetts (based on The Arc’s letter).

Re: Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Dear Senator Menendez and Senator Corker:

The Arc of Massachusetts represents nearly 200,000 people and families in Massachusetts. We are an affiliate of the nation’s largest national community-based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). In Massachusetts we have a network of 17 chapters and 42 supporting organizations promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

We urge ratification of the CRPD. The non-discrimination treaty is based on the same values our nation espouses in the Americans with Disabilities Act – economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society for all individuals with disabilities. As a leader in ensuring the human rights of individuals with disabilities, the U.S. must ratify the CRPD.

The CRPD establishes international standards regarding the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities, and creates a common basis for greater civic and political participation, self-sufficiency, and independent living. The Convention reflects core American values such as the dignity of the individual, access to justice, the importance of family decision-making, and access to appropriate health care. The Convention is furthermore consistent with not only the ADA, but also with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and numerous other U.S. laws. The reservations, understandings, and declarations offered by the Administration allow the United States to meet the obligations of the treaty while remaining consistent with U.S. domestic law.

The Arc urges the Senate to come together in bipartisan fashion, as it did in passing the ADA and the more recent Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), to ratify the CRPD and ensure our global leadership in disability and human rights.

The Arc is committed to our country’s leadership for the rights and empowerment of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide. We believe that ratification of the CRPD will allow the United States to continue in our global leadership in this area, and therefore urge the Senate to quickly consider and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Useful Information

Massachusetts State House Information

Directions to the State House

The State House is located on the top of Beacon Hill, near the Boston Common in Boston.

For special assistance unloading buses or for wheelchair vans, call the MDC State House Rangers at (617) 722-1188.

Roadways throughout Boston are frequently under construction. These directions are accurate to the best of our knowledge, but may change with little notice. Please be sure to verify your route.

By car from the North
Take Interstate 93 SOUTH to Exit 26, Storrow Drive and North Station. Stay in the LEFT lane and follow signs to Storrow Drive. Once out of the tunnel stay in LEFT lane and take the first exit on the LEFT towards Government Center and Kendall Square. Stay LEFT; at the blinking red light enter Charles Circle. Turn RIGHT onto Charles Street at the CVS. At the fifth light turn LEFT onto Beacon Street. The State House will be on your LEFT.

By car from the South
Take Interstate 93 NORTH to Exit 23, Government Center. Stay in the LEFT lane onto North Street. Go through one set of lights. At the second set of lights, turn LEFT onto Congress Street. Take the first RIGHT onto State Street. State Street turns into Court Street. Turn LEFT onto Tremont Street. At the third light turn RIGHT onto Park Street. Follow Park Street up the hill to the State House.

By car from the West
Take the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) EAST through the Boston tolls. Take Exit 22, Copley Square/Prudential. Stay in the RIGHT lane and follow the signs for Copley Square. This will lead you to Stuart Street. Continue straight through five lights. At the sixth light, turn LEFT on Charles Street South. Continue through two traffic lights passing by Boston Common. At the third light, make a RIGHT on Beacon Street. The State House will be on your LEFT.

By car from the Northwest
Take Route 2 EAST into Cambridge, MA. This will lead you to the Fresh Pond Parkway. (This is a winding road.) Follow signs for downtown Boston and Storrow Drive EAST. Take Storrow Drive for approximately 5 miles. Get off at the exit for Government Center and Cambridge Street. At the end of the ramp at the traffic light, turn RIGHT onto Charles Street. At the fifth light turn LEFT onto Beacon Street. The State House will be on your LEFT.

By Public Transportation (MBTA)
Red Line (from Alewife, Ashmont or Braintree Stations)
Take train to Park Street Station. Once outside the station walk up Park Street toward the State House.
Orange Line (from Oak Grove or Forest Hills Stations)
Take train to Downtown Crossing. Walk up Winter Street (away from Filenes and Macy’s) and turn RIGHT onto Tremont Street. Take first LEFT onto Park Street. Walk up Park Street to the State House.
Blue Line (from Wonderland or Airport Stations)
Take train to Government Center Station. At Government Center Station, take a LEFT onto Cambridge Street, which turns, into Tremont Street. Take first RIGHT onto Beacon Street. The State House is on the third block on the RIGHT.
Green Line (from the Riverside, Cleveland Circle, Boston College and Arborway Lines)
Take train to Park Street Station. Once outside the station walk up Park Street toward the State House.
Commuter Rail (take train to either South Station or North Station)
From South Station, take the Red Line to Park Street Station. Once outside the station walk up Park Street toward the State House.
From North Station, take the Green Line to Government Center Station. At Government Center Station, take a LEFT onto Cambridge Street, which turns into Tremont Street. Take first RIGHT onto Beacon Street. The State House is on the third block on the RIGHT.

Parking and Entrance Information

Handicapped Parking:

There is limited on-street parking available for those with handicap plates. They are:
Mt. Vernon Street – 1 spot
Derne Street – 2 spots
Corner of Ashburton Place & Bowdoin Street (in front of McCormack Building) – 4 spots

More reliably, you can call the House and/or Senate business offices in advance to secure
courtesy parking.
House Business Office: 617-722-2500
Senate Business Office: 617-722-1511

Area Parking Facilities
Beacon Hill
Boston Common Garage, located between the Boston Common and Public
Gardens (best cost & bet to find a space) – 617 954-2096
Charles Street Parking Garage 144 Charles Street – 617-523-8432
Allright Boston Parking Inc Boston Common Garage – 617 954-2098

Faneuil Hall
University Parking Inc. 6 Faneuil Hall Market Place – 617-523-0512

Other Parking Garages in the Area
Allright Boston Parking 59 Temple Place – 617-426-2389
Beacon Hill Parking Inc. 70 Brimmer Street – 617-742-6863
Center Plaza Garage 1 Center Plaza – 617-742-7807
Francis X Green 1 Bullfinch Place – 617-223-8583
J & O Parking 150 Canal Street – 617-523-4768
Laz Parking Ltd. 101 Merrimac Street – 617-248-8861
One Beacon Street Garage 1 Beacon Street – 617-227-7220
Owl Parking 149 Causeway Street – 617-723-3668
Standard Parking Inc. 10 Park Plaza – 617-973-7054

Entrances to the State House
The State House has three public entrances.
Beacon Street/Hooker Statue Entrance
This is the main and only entrance to the State House on Beacon Street. Facing the State House, it is to the right. It is not wheelchair accessible.

Bowdoin Street Entrance (wheelchair accessible)
Bowdoin Street runs perpendicular to Beacon Street and is to the right as you face the State House. This entrance does not have much space inside or outside the building, but it is accessible.

Ashburton Park Entrance (wheelchair accessible)
The entrance is on Bowdoin Street, beyond the first entrance. This entrance has more space both outside and inside the State House, however, construction in the area requires that you walk on the right-side sidewalk and cross back to enter.

Security is present at all three entrances. To pass reasonably quickly through security, it would be best to have no loose change, keys or metal objects in your pockets. Pocketbooks, backpacks will be x-rayed.

Government Affairs Committee

The Governmental Affairs Committee meets monthly on Mondays from 10:00am – 11:30am at The Arc of Massachusetts’ office (click here for directions to the office). If you would like to attend a meeting, please email Beth Rutledge or call 781-891-6270, ext. 6101