The “Easy advocacy how-to” sections are:
Check out whichever parts of whichever section you want. Look around in all three sections to “level-up” toward the best advocate version of yourself—in line with your unique interests and abilities.
Some advocacy is about what you do in your day-to-day interactions, like going to the store, traveling, and renting a home. There are laws behind these interactions that can affect what’s allowed and what’s not.
Especially for folks with disabilities, these laws matter for the everyday. Knowing both who is supposed to represent what you want and how to keep in contact can be the difference between benefiting from laws that give you equal access, or suffering under laws that harm you.
So let’s make it easy for you to have a closer relationship with the people making those laws on your behalf!
Click to expand the text below on the page. Notice that there’s a way for almost every single option to be done from home if you want!figuring out who represents you—federal, state, and local
The website linked just below does a great job bringing together different resources to help you find who represents you almost all levels (presidential, congressional, state, county, and even city for some areas). If you’re a self-starter, this may be enough to get you going:
We’re also going to give you a rundown of how to use some of the finder tools for each major kind of representative.
Note: These descriptions are based on how the sites we’re talking about were organized at the time of writing. If they get reorganized or our descriptions are unclear for some other reason, please contact us and let us know—we rely on our community to help keep our resources accurate and up to date!
members of US Congress—senators and representatives
This site looks messy, but the senator search is relatively simple. Just choose your state from the “Choose a State” dropdown menu, then you’ll be shown your senators.
Unlike with your single representative for your district in the “House of Representatives”, you have two senators for your state and both represent you!
Digging deeper: If you want to learn all sorts of things about how the Senate works, who else is involved, and who’s on which committee, click around on the site. You might be surprised at all the knowledge nuggets waiting for the curious. (Same goes for sites below.)
House of Representatives
One person represents your district in the House, but most people don’t know their district number. Don’t panic! On the site linked below, you can use your zip code to find your representative.
In the upper right area, there’s a place to enter your zip code. Avoid confusion: the zip code search bar is different from the general search bar that is all the way at the top.
elected representatives at the state level
Important stuff happens at the state level, too! Many states mirror the federal structure, with a state senate and state house of representatives. You probably have two state-level representatives, with one in each part or “chamber” to represent your district.
When you visit the site linked below, all you have to do is enter your zip code or address in the field that says “Enter your address:”. Then your state-level representatives should pop up.
It gets better! If you click on the representative’s name, you can get the dish on things like their current voting record, committee participation, and sponsored bills.
A more general view: If you want some handy context, you can grab an overview of your state’s lawmaking bodies by picking your state from the dropdown menu in the upper left of the site. Then you can click on the tabs at the top to explore all the legislators, bills, or committees your heart desires.
local city/county/parish representatives
Sometimes you need to work locally for change in your community. Many people can find all of their representatives—including city and county—through this handy tool from Common Cause:
Enter your address and you’ll get an extensive list of your elected representatives at all levels. You don’t need to sign up with Common Cause to use the tool.
Plan B: If your local info is out of date or the tool doesn’t work for you, don’t fret. Just do a search on google.com to find your local resources directly.
For instance, if you live in York County in South Carolina, you can search for “york county council south carolina”. Once you click on the official page for your local government, they’ll usually make it easy to figure out who represents your district on the council. The same way of searching applies to finding your city representatives.
the many ways to contact your elected representatives
Here are some possibilities, but you don’t need to do everything! The point is to know what your options are so you can choose what suits you and your purpose.
When you’re contacting your own elected officials, be sure to let them know you’re their constituent and not someone they don’t directly represent.
show up at their office*
Federal representatives have multiple offices in different locations, so check out your options. Make an appointment, and don’t expect to see the actual representative. Staffers take most appointments, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get that photo op!
Be polite where you can and take notes with you so you can efficiently make your points in case your mind goes blank. It helps if there is a specific bill or action you are advocating for, rather than just saying “Yay service dogs!”. An especially handy resource to prepare with and to leave with them is our lawmaking guide.
ˆ write a letter (postcards are better due to security procedures) (does not expand)
ˆ email (does not expand)
If you are unable to leave your house or travel to your representative’s office, you can request a phone appointment with a staffer or your representative as a reasonable accommodation.
ˆ fax (does not expand)
Resistbot is an automated messenger service that will deliver your text message to the people who represent you in Congress in less than 2 minutes. There’s no need to download an app.
Text RESIST to 50409 on SMS (or RESIST to Resistbot on Telegram or Messenger) and you’ll be walked through the process to find your representatives and get your message sent.
Check out https://resist.bothttps://resist.bot to learn about more of its features, like having Resistbot post a letter to Congress for you, or finding town hall meetings held by your representatives.
Many advocacy groups are also eager to facilitate sending your message (or theirs!) to your representative. It can be very helpful to sign up with causes close to your heart to get updates and to make communicating easier.
attend public appearances*
This can include town halls, rallys, media events, etc. Research a bit ahead of time to make sure you can get in and aren’t going to bring any event contraband.
If your representative is active on social media, you may be able to get their attention or influence them on this front. If you can, let them know you’re their constituent (assuming you are!). This can make a big difference.
* If you need an ASL interpreter or another accommodation, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
Any suggestions to improve this how-to? Please contact us.