This section provides an overview of the topic areas that are the foundation of the Partners in Policymaking leadership training program. Each Partners coordinator will provide a set of readings and handouts for each session. Concept highlights are for Partners who may have difficulty with reading/comprehension.
The past is always with us. It shapes the present—how we think about issues and how we see people. We can't make the past go away. We can, however, shape the future, and we need to take the past into account as we do so. Every day, what we do and don't do makes a difference in shaping the future.
A quality education can pave the way for a life of opportunity and contribution. An education that does not prepare children for a successful future guarantees they won't have a successful future. Schools are for learning and much, much more. In addition to helping children learn academics, schools can help children develop values, responsibilities, and social skills. They can enable children to learn important lessons about life. If students miss out on these opportunities as children, they will be ill-equipped as adults and will miss out on even more as adults. All of these things are equally true for children with and without disabilities.
Service coordination has evolved into a very important part of the service system. At one time, people with disabilities and/or their families had to “manage” the system on their own. It was up to them to figure out what they needed, who might provide it, if they qualified, and so on. Once they became a client of a particular agency, they might receive some help with coordinating the different services. In too many cases, however, they were simply added to the “caseload” of the “case manager”—an individual and/or a family became a “case to be managed.”
The idea of planning for people with disabilities has been around for a long time. What’s changed is who is in charge and why it’s done.
Disability can be defined as "any condition that challenges the development or functioning of an individual, such as sensory, physical, or mental impairments..." Assistive technology can help people with disabilities meet these challenges and become more self-reliant, productive, and included in schools, workplaces, communities—anywhere.
Real work for real pay is an important part of all of these dimensions of life. It means making choices and decisions. It means getting paid, and being more financially-independent. It means being a part of things, and being seen as being a part of things.
How we live, where we live, with whom we live—each of these have an important impact on inclusion and belonging. The nature of our homes has a lot to do with how other people see us. People who are seen as deserving only a “home-like” environment are not as valued as those who are seen as worthy of owning their own homes. People who live in residential facilities or other segregated places are not as valued as people who have a home to go to. People who are not allowed to choose with whom they live, or where they live, or when they eat, or what they eat, and so on, do not have control over very important parts of their lives.
Most of the Partners in Policymaking curriculum focuses on the “what” of change—changes in policies and actions, and values and attitudes that are necessary if people with developmental disabilities are to enjoy a good life as participating, contributing, and valued members of the community. This topic focuses on the “how” of change: basic skills, actions and strategies that can be used to influence professionals, policymakers, and politicians.