All of us are likely to encounter opportunities in which having the tools to advocate for ourselves will greatly benefit our lives. In my life, this is most common in the management of my health and of course the accessibility of a world without sight. The notion is how we best manage barriers between ourselves and our objectives. Self-awareness to assess my needs, critical thinking to understand the true nature of the various barriers, and problem solving to develop solutions all come together around the critical aspect of delivery to the people and places where I hope to adjust a process to ensure progress towards a resolution.
Having just voted in my city of Nashua, NH where all federal elections are now completely accessible to me, it is disheartening to face a system which is entirely inaccessible to me. Walking into the polling location, a helpful volunteer immediately apologized with kindness and clear empathy: “Randy, we don’t have the computer today.” I thanked them, assuring them I knew this and had come with my wife Tracy to ensure I could vote this time.
What about the sight impaired who don’t have someone they can trust to this extent? The state of New Hampshire owns the tablet, headphones, and printer which are the primary pieces of equipment to allow for accessibility for the print disabled including the sight impaired. For federal elections, they have a process to provide it to the many polling locations but otherwise it is each community’s responsibility. They are ultimately fully aware of the problem and have a pathway to solutions, but lack the driving process to implement. So they choose to leave the problem in place. It is precisely here where advocacy is what is necessary to explore the possible change.
Each of us finds our own pathway to advocate for the problems we encounter. Typically, we are trying to find the most effective method of gaining a person’s, organization’s, or industry’s awareness. Most times this is enough when a sensible solution can be identified. Often, lack of awareness for others is what results in the challenge; for me personally, I find a respectful, positive, future focused approach invites people to warmly work with me to resolve the situation.
I’ve been frustrated on this journey many times when confronted by seemingly callous disregard or on occasion more willful negativity. It is here where understanding and communicating clear boundaries enables me to spend less of my time in frustration and more of my time recruiting the appropriate allies to ensure impropriety is ultimately not accepted. I choose to be clear, firm and friendly as much as possible.
I do not suggest this is the required approach everyone must take in their journey of advocacy. In fact, there are times I slip from my ideal when confronted with particularly difficult responses. I just find in my experiences the truer I remain to this approach, the more effective and successful I am in the short term and the long term goal of progressing towards a world in which all our individual needs get the appropriate inclusive considerations, while bringing people together in positive connections that ultimately make all of us more effective together.