Disability Advocacy Certificate Program

Screenshot of Zoom meeting with 2021 AAPD Summer Interns and AAPD staff.
The 2021 Summer Internship Program Participants

About the AAPD Disability Advocacy Certificate Program

The AAPD Disability Advocacy Certificate Program was established in 2018. While participants complete their internship Monday to Thursday from 9-to-5, they participate in a Disability Advocacy Certificate Program course on Fridays. The Certificate Program prepares participants to be knowledgeable and effective advocates for the disability community. The focus is on preparing interns to use their own story to advocate in their own community, university, state, and on the national level.

Through discussions with experts, interns will learn to apply their strengths and skills to advocate effectively to influence change. Interns will become familiar with the history of the disability community and its impact on the present day.

The AAPD Disability Advocacy Certificate Program is currently only available for people who are participating in the AAPD Summer Internship Program.

2022 Disability Advocacy Certificate Program Goal

By the end of the course, interns were empowered with knowledge and strategies to advocate for the disability community in their home school, their community, home state, and nationally.

2022 Disability Advocacy Certificate Program Objectives

Interns that participated in the Advocacy Certificate Program:

  1. Identified strategies on how to advocate for their community on the local, state, and national level
  2. Communicated their story on issues across multiple mediums (e.g. social media, blog posts, policy memos, Hill visits, presentations)
  3. Communicated their story to different audiences
  4. Described how different legislations impact the disability community on variety of different levels
  5. Understood their role and responsibility in the collective disability rights movement

2022 Course Topics

  • Introduction to Organizing, Advocacy, and Policy
  • How to Tell Your Story
  • Levels of Advocacy: Individual & Self Advocacy
  • Levels of Advocacy: Systems Advocacy
  • Forms of Advocacy: Direct Action, Legal, Legislative, Administrative, 
  • Forms of Advocacy: Media/Education, Digital, Artistic
  • Coalition Building with Community & Elected Officials

Past Disability Advocacy Certificate Program Speakers

We are so grateful to invite leaders in the disability community as presenters and panelists during the Disability Advocacy Certificate Program. Some past speakers include:

  • Rosemary McDonnell-Horita, LaVant Consulting
  • Patrick Cokley, Civic Influencers
  • Dustin Gibson, PeoplesHub
  • Mia Ives-Rublee, Center for American Progress- Disability Justice Initiative
  • Elijah Armstrong, Equal Opportunity Students and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
  • Britney Wilson, NYU Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic
  • Anita Cameron, ADAPT and Not Dead Yet
  • Patrice Strahan. Disability Justice Culture Club
  • Teresa Nguyen, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy
  • Emily Voorde, NEWCO Strategies
  • Liz Weintraub, Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
  • Ricardo Thornton, DC Developmental Disabilities Council
  • Amber Smock, Access Living
  • Sandy Ho, Borealis Philanthropy 
  • Stephanie Kaufman-Mthimkhulu, Project LETS
  • Rabia Belt, Stanford Law School
  • Day Al-Mohammed, Domestic Policy Council, White House
  • And many more…

2022 Disability Advocacy Certificate Program Assignments 

While attending weekly classes, AAPD Summer interns completed several assignments to apply and process what they learned with an emphasis on advocacy through storytelling. These assignments included government elected official visits, policy memos, blogs about their visits, Portrait of Empowerments, and the final group advocacy project.

Elected Official Visits

In order to provide an activity where interns could practice advocating for disability issues to different audiences, interns identified an issue or legislation impacting people with disabilities and an elected official who could respond to their concerns. Interns met with elected officials on the local, state, and national levels.

One-Pager Handout/ Policy Memo 

Interns applied their learning about policy advocacy through storytelling and communication by writing a policy memo on an issue or legislation of their choice. It was an opportunity to practice a clear and concise way to convey their research and information about a particular issue or legislation to their elected official.

Blog Post 

Interns wrote blog posts about their experience visiting with their representatives and the issue they discussed. Since some interns were not able to schedule meetings, they wrote about their challenges with the scheduling process or what they hoped to discuss in their meetings. 

Final Projects

For their final project, interns collaborated in groups on advocacy plans to address an issue impacting the disability community. The advocacy plans included the history of the issue, action steps, materials related to their action steps, and a launch plan. During the last week of class, the intern groups presented their plans to a wide audience including AAPD staff and Board Members, sponsors, mentors, and internship supervisors. 

Portraits of Empowerment

Both the Disability Advocacy Certificate Program and the Disability Policy Certificate Program cohorts practiced utilizing social media for advocacy in the Portraits of Empowerment assignment. Interns developed their stories in a compelling way for social media platforms by creating accessible materials and drafting posts that answered prompts such as: “When did you first learn about advocacy?” or “Share your story about what the Americans with Disabilities Act means to you.” and “Describe a time when you noticed the impact of policy on your life directly.” and “What is a policy (current or not yet existing) you would like to see enacted in your lifetime?”  All of these posts were shared on AAPD’s social media as well as our website.

Support for the 2022 Summer Internship Program is provided by:

  • Aid Association for the Blind of District of Columbia
  • Arconic Foundation
  • Microsoft
  • The Coca-Cola Foundation
  • United Airlines

Thank you to all of our sponsors who ensured that our selected interns still had a meaningful opportunity during the 2022 summer.

Our Sponsors