Frontline Initiative: Advocacy and Voting

Hitting a Home Run to Elevate Your DSP Perspective at the Federal Level


Serena Lowe is Principal at AnereS Strategies. Serena can be reached at

Serena is a woman with long blondish-brown hair that goes past her shoulders. She is looking right at the camera smiling. She has a red top and a dark-colored blazer on. There is an American flag behind her on the left side of the photo.

Serena Lowe

The nation faces a well‐documented and critical shortage of direct support professionals (DSPs). All of us must show leadership to preserve and advance the successes of our past and attract new generations of people who seek direct support as a career.

Without a strong direct support workforce, the nation’s home and community-based infrastructure could collapse and jeopardize the safety, welfare, and opportunity for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) to live, work and thrive in their own homes and communities of their choice. Additionally, families and caregivers face increased pressure to step in and deliver the care and support needed to meet the complex health needs of older adults and persons with disabilities, often with little to no access to direct support professionals or training.

Elevating the voices of DSPs in federal and state policymaking is critical to advance responsible change in disability systems. Perspectives, passion, and on-the-ground experiences of DSPs need to be embedded into public policy decision-making processes to ensure that policymakers use real-world knowledge and expertise about the direct support workforce when making important decisions that affect it.

It is now essential that DSPs lead public policy issues that improve home and community-based services for people with IDD and other disabilities. To support this goal, NADSP will convene its third Annual DSP Advocacy Day on April 30 and May 1, 2024. This virtual event connects DSPs directly with their Members of Congress. Congressional leaders and their staff hear firsthand from DSPs on what the federal government should do to meet the growing demand for high-quality home and community-based services for diverse populations living with disabilities.

Advocacy Baseball is a five-step framework using America’s favorite pastime to help advocates plan for and engage in successful advocacy meetings with policy leaders at any level.

One of NADSP’s objectives is to provide DSPs with accessible information, training, and tools to be a successful advocate. As such, we have offered a model known as “Advocacy Baseball.” Advocacy Baseball is a five-step framework using America’s favorite pastime to help advocates plan for and engage in successful advocacy meetings with policy leaders at any level. The steps involve Engagement (First Base), Grounding (Second Base), Hook (Third Base), the Ask (Pitch), and Follow-up (Home Plate). When used to design and implement advocacy strategy – whether as an individual, a small group, or a larger community – advocates are sure to hit a home run in changing systems!

Advocacy Baseball. A guide to effective advocacy meetings. A green baseball diamond with tan bases. First base: Open with arrow to Second base: Positioning with arrow to Third Base: Hot Corner with arrow to Pitchers: Ask with arrows to Home Plate: Home Run. Bring it in for the win.

First Base – The Open: Introduce yourself and tell why you’re there.

Second Base – Positioning: Share your personal experiences. Tell them why you asked for this meeting and your goal. Explain how your topic affects your daily life or the people you support.

Third Base – Hot Corner: Describe the challenges you are facing.

The Pitch – Your Ask: Tell them what you want them to do and ask if they will support you and your advocacy request(s). Examples may include co-sponsoring a specific piece of legislation, supporting a budget proposal, or sending a letter to a specific state or federal agency.

Home Run – Bringing it in for the Win: Thank the policymaker(s) for their time and commitment to support people with disabilities and their families. Tell them you will follow up with them in the near future.

Advocacy Baseball can also help individuals with IDD and their families learn how to better advocate for their needs and wants. DSPs can teach Advocacy Baseball to other DSPs and the people they support to improve their advocacy skills and prepare for important meetings. For example, Advocacy Baseball can be used to prepare for an annual meeting to discuss an individualized education plan (IEP) or individualized support plan (ISP), a public meeting like a school board meeting or local government town hall, or when serving on an employer-sponsored or State-sponsored advisory board.

The Advocacy Day program teaches DSPs how to hone their advocacy messages to policymakers by better understanding:

  • How the federal and state governments co-fund Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS)
  • How systemic barriers prevent people with disabilities from getting high-quality HCBS, and what needs to change to improve access
  • What policymakers care about, and how to influence them to change laws to improve access to HCBS

DSPs who complete Advocacy Baseball training will be able to:

  • Identify the key components of an advocacy meeting with policymakers
  • Outline specific talking points for each phase of an advocacy meeting
  • Present clear, action-oriented messages to policymakers as a result of advocacy practice and role-playing

Our advocacy depends on the engagement of every DSP. We hope you will participate in this year’s NADSP Advocacy Symposium: Building A Grassroots Movement . If you participated in a previous Advocacy Symposium and would like to up your game this year, please consider signing up to be a State Co-Lead. A State Co-Lead will serve as a group liaison between other DSPs participating in our advocacy activities in your state and NADSP. Join us at the Annual DSP Advocacy Day and fight for recognition and support of the DSP workforce!

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