Think being an advocate is too complicated or time consuming? It’s not! At the end of the day, you’re simply supporting a cause, idea, or policy that already interests you.
As future audiologists and speech-language pathologists, you’re going to spend a lot of time being an advocate—for your clients, for their care, and for the treatments you propose. But advocacy can extend beyond your clients.
Don’t think because you’re “only” doing something in your local community that you’re not advocating and it doesn’t make a difference—it does! At the local level, you can reach your family, friends, co-workers, and local government officials. Check out how these 2016-2017 Gold Chapter Honors recipients made a difference in their local communities:
- The Vanderbilt University Chapter collaborated with their local public-school system to advocate for improved classroom acoustics. After submitting a letter about the importance of improved classroom acoustics in education, they spoke at school board and principal meetings, provided simulations of hearing loss and the effects of a noisy classroom, and presented realistic ways to improve classroom acoustics.
- The Minot State University Chapter filled goodie bags with info on developmental milestones, coloring pages, earplugs with hearing protection handouts, tattoos, and candy—then educated parents about speech and language development at a local mall.
- The Midwestern University Chapter taught family members, faculty, and friends about what they’re studying in their CSD program at a “Family Night.”
- Under the supervision of a professor, the Lehman College Chapter gave undergraduate students hands-on experience using an audiometer for hearing screenings.
Anyone can get involved in grassroots advocacy at the state level—yep, this means you! All you have to do is learn about the issues, contact your government officials, and tell them your story. These 2016-2017 Gold Chapter Honors recipients made a real impact in their states:
- The East Tennessee State University Chapter messaged their local representative and advocated for a change in professional taxes and school caseload regulations in Tennessee.
- The Nova Southeastern University Chapter taught chapter members how to use ASHA’s Take Action website, and invited their state association liaison to speak about the different levels of advocacy.
- To prepare for Iowa’s state-wide Advocacy Day, the University of Iowa Chapter participated in the state association’s conference calls, which helped them get organized and gave them ideas to involve chapter members.
- To prepare for their state association’s Legislative Day, the University of Missouri, Columbia, contacted the lobbyist who works with their state association to learn about bills that affect audiologists, speech-language pathologists, or those they serve.
You’re entering a profession that can be affected by decisions made by federal legislatures. Your goal should be to raise awareness of current issues with these legislatures, and make them real by sharing your passion and stories. These 2016-2017 Gold Chapter Honors recipients really nailed it at the federal level:
- The Long Island University, Brooklyn, Chapter traveled from New York to Washington, D.C., to meet with their representatives and discuss issues like the reauthorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act. As a result of their efforts, Senator Chuck Schumer co-sponsored Senate Bill 2424 to reauthorize this funding.
- The North Carolina Central University Chapter strengthened their efforts for ASHA’s Virtual Advocacy Day by sharing a single message through letters to Congress and their social media accounts to create a larger impact.
- The University of Montana Chapter narrowed their scope to just one topic (raise awareness of limitations that individuals with disabilities may face); then contacted organizations advocating for the same issue, giving them a larger, more unified voice.
- The University of Pittsburgh Chapter increased involvement in ASHA’s Virtual Advocacy Day by awarding participation points to members who participated.
As you can see, advocating each level—local, state, federal—is important. Regardless of how you get involved, get involved. Do it on your own, or do it as a group through your NSSLHA Chapter or CSD program. Any way you choose, speak up and be heard!