• Jason Hahr

Advocacy Summit Tackles Transportation & Housing Access



In July, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC) sponsored a summit centered around developing future advocates and addressing two of the state’s pressing disability-related problems: transportation and housing.


The advocacy summit was held July 12-15 in Orlando. It consisted of general and breakout sessions where transportation and housing were tackled head on via brainstorming and action planning. Small work groups consisted of participants and a group facilitator. Three primary groups were invited to participate. They were Florida Partners in Policymaking graduates, self-advocates from Florida Self Advocates Network’D, and members of the Family Care Council of Florida. The event was coordinated and hosted by The Family Cafe on behalf of the FDDC.


From the beginning of the summit, it was clear that this would be unlike any other event that I had attended. On the first night the conference opened with a presentation by former Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. His presentation discussed the importance of advocacy and why it matters. In my opinion, his presentation was the perfect way to start a summit centered around advocacy.


The event did not lose any momentum on the second day. Attendees were first treated to a presentation by Steven Auger. Auger is the former executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, and his presentation was titled “Housing Policy in Florida: How It Works and What You Need to Know.” The presentation was extremely thorough and eye opening.


Following Auger the summit shifted to the second priority, which was transportation. Lisa Barcot is the executive director of the Florida Public Transportation Association and her presentation addressed transportation issues that affect people with disabilities in Florida. The presentation emphasized the lack of available drivers that both the paratransit and public transit systems have to deal with on a regular basis. Barcot’s presentation was extremely detailed but presented in an easy-to-understand way and was followed by a question and answer session.


As the summit progressed it included several more helpful presentations on everything from how to make action plans to how to successfully advocate with your legislators, regardless of the issue being discussed. Small groups were comprised of participants who lived in common geographic regions. There were six regions covering the entire state. The first task the groups were asked to do was determine present issues within their communities in terms of housing and transportation. Next, groups created actions plans which were designed to address one crucial issue within their region.


By having participants create action plans the summit organizers gave all participants something to follow through on after the summit. The speakers and activities at the summit were designed to serve as a springboard into future advocacy. The Family Café will follow up in the next few months as well as host a virtual meeting with each region. They indicated that this virtual meeting will serve as an opportunity for each region to give a project update as well as allow The Family Café to provide assistance wherever it is needed.


When one looks at the overall summit experience, including the ongoing activities that will take place afterwards, one cannot help but determine the advocacy summit was a complete success. This event was like no other event that I have attended. It brought together several of the most influential self-advocates in the state and it actually accomplished what it set out to do, which was to empower self-advocates in their advocacy work.


As a final thought, some of our readers who were not able to attend the summit may be wondering how they can get involved. The easiest answer to that question is to contact your local FL SAND group. You can find contact information for FL SAND groups at www.flsand.org. You can also find contact information for the FDDC at www.fddc.org and the Family Care Council at www.fccflorida.org.