Ben’s Advocacy trip to DC

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On Global Accessibility Awareness Day remember advocacy is not defined by age.

I am Robbi Cooper and I want to share my sons first trip to advocate in DC.

As a 6th grade student my son just finished another round of inaccessible reading tests that will be used to make invalid educational decisions about his reading comprehension level. He comprehends text above a 12th grade level, he will score in the bottom third in our state. Access to text is vital to his future and we decided that nothing would change for him if we do nothing about it. At 12 he already get it, this is his future and if he does not want to be beholden to outdated policies of the past, he must do his part.

Creating awareness of what digital access is was our first step. Generation Tech needs to advocate for their own future and there is no one better to do this than those that live it. We need to support them, they have known the digital world since birth, yet boundaries still exist imposed by policies rooted in a time before digital and in fear of change. A world open to access is this generations right and worth all of our fight. I hope my sons passion to share knowledge with strangers encourages others to press these issues with the same fearlessness as a 12 year old showed on his visit to Washington DC.

My son spent last week lobbying congress for digital access on high stakes tests, an issue we hope many of you will help us pursue. These tests remain gatekeepers to the educational opportunities which will shape students into a productive adults. Reading, we want to redefine as “Text Comprehension” which would open books and literature studies to other methods of text interaction, voice over being one of those. With out true digital access many bright students are marginalized by the effects of their disability. They are not able to show mastery, knowledge or skill when tests refuse to allow them the digital access they use to thrive with in class. Walking the halls of the Senate and House office buildings with my son gave me a renewed sense of urgency, these kids deserve all that we can do to open the world up to accessibility.

I had set up 5 appointments prior to our arrival for day one. But he did not stick our scripted meeting schedule, he used every minute between meetings to cold call offices and get his digital access message out. Every single office with a flag was an opportunity for him to show off his screen reader. He conveyed to me that behind one of 50 offices that he entered in his two days, was waiting the staffer or congressman willing to help him.

Our trip was successful and we are returning in June to do this again simply because it needs to be done. The issue of accessibility is a daily one for us, until accessibility is the norm we have no plans to rest. We went to DC out of desperation and we left with hope. We know this is a large issue and will take many visits but we are determined not to sit back and watch from the sidelines any longer. If we want a different future for our son, if he wants digital access to be accepted, our only choice is to advocate for change. Some day we will be tourists in this town full of history but for now we will walk the halls of congress making history of our own.

Link to the video on YouTube

Highlight Dyslexia DC advocacy for digital reading – Audio transcript (txt file format)

DC_advocacy_for_digital_reading (mp3 file format)

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