Module Seven: Add Your Voice! Advocating For Our Professions


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Advocating for Our Professions is a module developed by ASHA's Government Relations and Public Policy Board.

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In this presentation you will learn about grassroots advocacy, why you should advocate, the difference between legislative and regulatory advocacy, how to become an advocate, and what support ASHA offers you.

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Adding your voice through Grassroots Advocacy. What is grassroots advocacy? Its ordinary people working together to support a cause or position.

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A student's role in grassroots advocacy is to understand the importance of being an ongoing advocate for the professions, participate in opportunities to learn about, and engage in professional grassroots advocacy efforts. An example of student advocacy is coordinating a student group at a university to engage in grassroots advocacy.

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We are the experts of our professions. We can help educate elected officials and regulators. We are working toward greater success in implementing planned advocacy strategies, including legislative, regulatory, and media initiatives. We strive for an increased commitment to goals shared by audiologists, speech-language pathologists, legislators, higher education programs, and student groups.

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You need to be an advocate in order to share knowledge and expertise among professionals, students, and legislators. We want to encourage professional-student interaction with an expected outcome of increased cohesiveness for future grassroots efforts. Group advocacy has its benefits—there is strength in numbers!

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Legislative versus regulatory advocacy.

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There are two primary types of grassroots advocacy:

  • The first is legislative advocacy: legislators in federal, state, and local governments are responsible for developing laws and monitoring legislation.
  • The second is regulatory advocacy: regulators in federal, state, and local agencies are responsible for interpreting the laws related to our professions.

Advocacy goes beyond legislation and regulation. The promotion and advancement of the interests of the professionals in human communication, and those we serve. Advocacy is building relationship.

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The purpose of legislative advocacy includes working toward having a bill introduced, amending a bill that has been introduced, opposing a bill, or working toward having a bill enacted into law. Sometimes it may entail advocating for funding for an enacted law.

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Regulatory agencies can vary and function quite differently. Examples of regulatory agencies include Departments of Health, Education, and State. Do not assume that even if there is overlap that there is communication between agencies. Regulatory agencies generally issue regulations following a "notice and comment" period where interested parties may submit written comments. This affords you an opportunity to collaborate with ASHA and state associations in developing and submitting comments during the rulemaking process.

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Become an advocate!

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There are many communication vehicles used in advocacy. They include:

  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Fundraisers
  • Phone calls
  • Faxes
  • Letters
  • E-Advocacy—the easiest way to reach your members of Congress and state legislatures. It allows you to quickly and easily advocate for or against an issue online, including you mobile device.

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E-Advocacy is an electronic take action center. It allows ASHA and state associations to send e-mail alerts to their members and ask them to contact his or her elected representatives online to voice support or opposition on legislative bills or regulatory initiatives.

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Action alerts are created to alert members when action is needed. From there, members can use the e-mail template that ASHA develops or modify and personalize your message. After that, just submit it directly to your member of Congress, state legislature, or regulatory agency right online. You can also share the action with your friends and post to social media sites to help get the word out when action is needed.

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If you haven't already joined, please sign up to receive e-mail action alerts when your involvement can make a critical difference.


  • Face-to-Face Meetings—another effective form of grassroots advocacy. But, you must prepare!
  • Lay the groundwork—learn as much as you possibly can about your legislator's background. For example, their political party; legislative committees served on in Congress; personal facts, such as their hometown, education, and profession. These can provide insights into their view of the world. Most of this information can be found on their personal website.
  • Contact your Representative and Senators—call the member's Washington office and request a meeting in the local district office nearest you or in the Capitol if that works for you. When attempting to meet with a member, ask for the appointment secretary/scheduler and explain the purpose of your visit.
  • Explain who you are and why you want to meet>—identify yourself not only with a name, but as a constituent, state your city and state, your profession, and topic.
  • Confirm your appointment—some offices may ask you to send your request by email. Whether you are requesting an appointment or confirming one.
  • Be prepared for your visit—review ASHA's Issue Briefs posted under the federal advocacy section on ASHA's website. Know your issue well and be familiar with how it affects your patients and the professions. Know all sides of the argument. Have the materials for your lawmakers in hand as you depart for your visits. If you are meeting with your Senators with other colleagues, decide in advance who will be the spokesperson, and who will leave the materials.
  • Be prompt and patient for your visit—when it is time to meet with your legislator, be punctual and patient. Lawmakers have very busy schedules—a late arrival may mean that you miss your appointment. However, it is not uncommon for a lawmaker to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted, due to the member's crowded schedule. Be flexible if your time is cut short.

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Here are some points for an effective meeting:

  • Identify yourself
  • Simply describe your subject
  • Focus on one or two points
  • State your position clearly and concisely
  • Express your views reasonably and don't argue
  • Tell personal stories
  • Connect the issue back to the district/state as much as possible
  • Thank them for cosponsoring a bill
  • Don't be afraid to make an ask

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You should thank the member of Congress or staff member for their time and consideration of your issue. If you met with helpful staff member, let your legislator know. Follow-up with a thank you email and request to be kept informed about the issues you discussed.

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You can have effective meetings with a legislator. Check with ASHA or your state association in sufficient time so that you can receive talking points about the issue and what the professional association would like the legislator to do. You can leave something behind—business card, brochure, talking points—so that the legislator or the staff member will remember you and the issue.

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Keep in contact by sending an email or calling at least twice a year. Send holiday cards. If possible, attend local political fundraisers, events, and barbecues that are sponsored by the legislator. Be sure to write a letter of support to the editor of your local newspaper describing your legislator's efforts and send a copy to the legislator's office. You can also invite the legislator to visit your place of employment.

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ASHA provides advocacy support to its members.

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ASHA can support you with grassroots advocacy initiatives that have an impact on federal health, disability, and education policy issues:

  • Facilitate congressional visits.
  • Prepare "talking points" to facilitate knowledgeable dialogue with congress persons and their staff.
  • Represent ASHA on Capitol Hill, before federal agencies, and in the states
  • Lobby Congress and assist states in lobbying state legislatures on behalf of the professions
  • Increase visibility of the professions to Congress and state legislatures
  • Provide written comments on legislation/regulations of interest
  • Provide model bills for state legislation

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  • ASHA tracks and analyzes federal and state legislation and regulations that affect the professions
  • Coordinates grassroots advocacy initiatives for members of NSSLHA and ASHA
  • Develop and maintain a member grassroots advocacy network
  • Educate members about grassroots advocacy
  • Provide forum for discussion of issues through state networks, including the State Education Advocacy Leaders, State Medicare Administrative Contractors, and State Advocates for Reimbursement

ASHA's State Advocacy Team is available to assist states and provide supportive documentation. The Federal and Political Advocacy Team is available to assist you with your involvement in national advocacy efforts.

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ASHA has in place several grassroots advocacy mechanisms of it's own: Two standing boards/committees—the Government Relations and Public Policy Board, and the Political Action Committee—as well as regular collaboration with state associations.

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The ASHA Government Relations and Public Policy Board develops ASHA's Public Policy Agenda with input from membership, provides advocacy training and education to ASHA leadership groups, and communicates ASHA's advocacy progress through the annual Agenda in Action.

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One of the major intentions of this module is to inform you about political action committees or PACs. These are important committees both at the state and national levels. PACs are for supporting the election of individuals to public office who can impact policy change that will have a positive effect on the professions and the people we serve. The PAC raises funds for distribution to legislators to promote current professional issues. The ASHA PAC Board facilitates the understanding of the necessity of PAC funds among professional members.

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If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest issues in advocacy, follow ASHA Advocacy on social media.

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Be an advocate. Speak Out: Be Heard!

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For more information on ASHA's Advocacy efforts, please visit the website, call, or email

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We hope this module helped you so that you can have an impact on federal health, disability, and education policy issues as a student who will become an audiologist or speech-language pathologist. Please provide feedback or send questions and comments to At this point, you may proceed to that last module— Module Eight: Advocacy and School Finance.

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