A First-Timer’s Experience at Legislative Advocacy Day in Albany

By Jess Maiuro, Marketing and Development Assistant
y 29, 2024

For thImage of a smiling female with long brown hair, wearing glasses, a cross body purse and a black pea coat. She is taking a selfie in front of the steps of the State Capitol building, a building full of windows, pointed gables and red roofing. e last decade, conversations and meetings at the places I’ve worked have revolved around social media statistics, trends, and marketing campaigns. Never was it subjects with as much gravitas as human rights, disability accessibility, policy reform, and peoples’ stories of life-changing moments and the lasting impact it had on their lives. I’d always had a personal interest and passion for helping/advocating for people, so when the opportunity to work at Independent Living came up, I jumped at the opportunity. After a few months of working here, I learned about a voluntary event called Legislative Advocacy Day at the State Capitol in Albany, New York. I immediately knew I wanted to go.

For context, Legislative Advocacy Day, also referred to as “Budget Advocacy Day” is an annual event held at the State Capitol in response to the New York State 2025 Executive Budget released by Governor Hochul. It’s a day where people are encouraged to take action and meet with legislators to advocate for change within a particular issue, and the cool part is that anyone can join. If you’re interested in attending and aren’t employed or a member of an organization, you can sign up with an organization like ours to hop on the bus to meet and rally.

Although my objective in attending was to observe and document the day for social media/marketing purposes, I didn’t take this lightly.  It sounded intimidating, and I wanted to learn as much as possible and be prepared to know my stuff before attending, so I spoke to colleagues who are experienced advocates and attended a virtual “What to Expect” meeting led by New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL). In other words, I did my homework on the primary advocacy issues up for discussion, and they were:

  1. to seek support in increasing the base funding for Independent Living Centers by +$2M, and for independent living centers to be added to the human services programs eligible for a cost of living adjustment (COLA)
  2. to address the home care crisis by increasing wages for home care workers. Home care workers make poverty-level income below minimum wage and work very long hours caring for people in their homes. It often involves demanding medical, physical, and emotional labor.
  3. to fund the Olmstead Plan Creation and that the state develops and commits to a new plan for the first time in 10 years to address challenges with the current deinstitutionalization efforts.
  4. to require counties to expand paratransit service beyond federal ADA minimums from ¼ of a mile from fixed routes to ensure that people living with disabilities 3 miles or more from a traditional transit route are eligible for paratransit service.
  5. to seek support for Daniel’s Law to establish a non-police response for New Yorkers experiencing mental health crises.

As I walked into the beautiful State Capitol building, with its grandiose architecture and history, I could feel a buzzing energy and vibrancy to the day. You could sense that people were there with a purpose. A purpose to invoke change, to meet with one another to form connections and build camaraderie. There were press conferences going on in one wing with bright lights, politicians and employees walking down the halls in starched suits, organizations setting up tables with informative brochures about thePhoto of a passionate group of Independent Living staff, behind the Independent Living table, aside the signage, smilingir services, and in matching t-shirts and signs representing their cause.

We started the day with a series of speakers in the “Well” where everyone gathered. Then I spent the afternoon attending meetings with Senators alongside a group of my colleagues. They were on fire! I was excited to see them in their element during this mix of in-person meetings and virtual meetings. For the most part, the Senators and Assemblymen seemed receptive and supportive. I was surprised at how informal—yet formal—the conversations that took place were. There was a lot of legal jargon and policy/law numbers thrown around followed by shared personal anecdotes.

During my colleague’s impassioned talks with the Senators about barriers they face or the consumers whom they work with face, some things really struck aPicture of a female, blonde with glasses on her head, holding a stack of papers and using a wheelchair. She is advocating for the rights of people with disabilities with a legislator. chord with me. I was horrified to learn about the genesis for Daniel’s Law, based on a man with mental illness in crisis in Rochester who was shot and killed by police. There are far too many stories like this nowadays, but it’s reassuring to see people taking action to prevent this from happening again. Daniel’s law makes sure mental health crises are treated as a public health issue, not a public safety threat. It creates councils of people with lived experience, a term in this industry referring to people who have lived experience with a disability/trauma/etc., and mental health experts dedicated to the goals of de-escalation and trauma-informed care.

Overall I found the day to be fascinating. I never would have imagined that my work would lead me to being in a state senator’s office. It was such a new and exciting experience. I highly encourage others, even if you’re someone like me who’s entirely new to advocacy work, to attend Legislative Advocacy Day.