Whitney Center Hosts Disability Advocacy Forum
ST. CLOUD -- A group of central Minnesotans learned how to testify in front of lawmakers using personal stories Tuesday night.
The Disability Advocacy Town Hall Forum, a statewide program sponsored by a group of Minnesota nonprofit organizations, was held at the Whitney Senior Center.
After brainstorming and structuring a short, persuasive personal narrative, participants had the chance to share in front of local lawmakers. Attendees learned how to create a personal introduction, choose a specific issue or problem to focus on and explain what they believe is the solution in a 3-4 minute window of time, the typical amount of time allotted those who testify in St Paul. They also learned tips for building relationships with local and state lawmakers.
The forum was held during a regular meeting of the Brain Injury Support Group of Minnesota, a group that meets monthly at the Whitney Senior Center. Tom Theis, the facilitator of the group, has testified in front of lawmakers before on issues affecting individuals living with traumatic brain injuries. He says learning how to speak confidently and passionately in front of lawmakers is challenging, but it allows citizens to create positive change.
"People that do it - I give credit to them for being brave enough to do it. It's so important - that's the way our senators and representatives are going to hear about the problems that face people with disabilities."
Theis says because so many people live with "hidden disabilities," personal storytelling is very important when it comes to educating policymakers.
"You look at somebody and they look like anyone else - they look normal," Theis explains. "But when they move, or when they talk about a disability you can't see, that's exactly what the senators and representatives need to see themselves. That's what going to help change laws."
The Disability Advocacy Town Hall Forum will continue to travel around Minnesota with stops in Savage and Rochester.