During the recent Congressional health care debate on Capitol Hill, I was thrilled to see so many disability advocates and organizations, come out against dangerous legislation impacting so many with disabilities. Unfortunately, some non-disability organizations chose to sit on the sidelines rather than publicly take a stand on this critical issue. The silence emanating from many organizations or Foundations with missions addressing healthcare, poverty, and human rights was deafening. Cutting Medicaid and reducing access to health care must be viewed as a key issue for an organization that helps people get out of poverty, helps people gain needed health affordable health care, and addresses the inequalities among individuals in our nation.
Often when it comes to advocacy, organization leaders have to step up and push groups into taking strong positions on proposed legislation. In my case, I rely on the outstanding staff of the Autism Society of America, our excellent and passionate leaders in our affiliate network, and a dynamic board of directors to guide decision-making and recommendations for advocacy strategy. Whenever some disagree with our decisions, I listen to their concerns and share that we participate in such efforts because it helps advance our mission of helping each autistic individual maximize their quality of life every day.
When we advocate and make our voice heard on important issues like health care repeal, we make certain to comply with all rules and regulations governing nonprofit advocacy. The Autism Society is a nonpartisan organization with self-advocates, families, donors, board members, and staff of all political stripes. Sadly, sometimes, organizations are susceptible to action or inaction based solely on a donor’s political leaning or personal position on an issue with far-reaching impacts on our community. I have personally witnessed groups not engage in needed advocacy for fear of offending and alienating a donor. To me, that is wrong. Admittedly, the balancing act can be difficult; however, the mission of the organization and the impact legislation will have on that mission is what must drive the path forward.
People want organizations to lead and do what is right. When groups advocate for equity and fairness and aim to protect the wellbeing of those they proudly serve, people will respect necessary actions. That is why I am so proud of the Autism Society of America. We are the oldest and largest grassroots autism organization dedicated to of all affected by autism and ensuring those on the spectrum live in a society where their unique talents and gifts are valued. In the end, that’s what counts most.