The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress is a national leader in the disability policy arena. Through partnerships with legislators, their constituents and other disability organizations, we work to advance legislation and other policies that benefit people with Down syndrome and their families.
MDSC’s advocacy in the public policy arena has lead to the passage of numerous bills, including landmark legislation that ensures equal rights, inclusion and support for the Down syndrome community.
To see our statewide and national action alerts, visit MDSC’s Legislative Action Center.
Statewide Legislative Platform
At the start of each two-year legislative session, the MDSC’s Government Affairs Committee carefully selects a set of priority bills and secondary support bills for our statewide legislative platform. We believe that the best way to put these bills on legislators’ agendas is for our members to take action and contact their representatives about the issues they care about. You can view the 2021-2022 Legislative Platform here.
National Legislative Advocacy & Platform
The MDSC adopts its federal legislative platform from its national partner, the National Down Syndrome Society. Shaped by self-advocates, families, affiliate leaders and others, the NDSS/MDSC legislative priorities span the life experience of individuals with Down syndrome from birth through adulthood and range in issues from healthcare to asset development.
The current NDSS legislative agenda emphasizes the rights and opportunities of people with Down syndrome in five important public policy arenas: health care and research, education, economic self-sufficiency, community integration, and employment. To learn more about the NDSS’s five-part legislative agenda, click here.
Government Affairs Committee
The primary vehicle for the MDSC’s public policy initiatives is our Government Affairs Committee. The Committee works with the MDSC Executive Director, Management Team, and the MDSC membership to advocate for statewide and national policies that will help the MDSC achieve its mission. With broad statewide representation, the Committee’s primary objective is to mobilize the MDSC membership to advocate on behalf of the entire Down syndrome community. Learn more about becoming a legislative advocate here.
The Committee does this by providing the following: outreach to members, training opportunities, the chance to testify at public hearings, and templates to use in advocacy efforts. The Committee also develops its own testimony, recruits members for public rallies, vigils, etc., and organizes and participates in meetings with policy makers both in the Legislature and the Administration.
The Committee appreciates your feedback. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Committee will review legislative bills and make a recommendation as to the bills that are of the highest priority for the MDSC to advocate for. Working with the MDSC Executive Director, the Committee will make a recommendation of a priority bill and support bills to include in the MDSC Legislative Platform. The Executive Director will submit these recommendations to the MDSC Board of Directors for approval.
- Once the Board of Directors has approved the Legislative Platform, the Committee will work closely with the Executive Director, management team and the MDSC membership to advocate for these bills. Advocacy will include the following activities:
- Develop relationships with key legislators that can champion the MDSC legislative platform.
- Informing the MDSC membership about the legislative priorities and how they can help advocate for these bills through the use of our newsletter, list-serve, and e-newsletter.
- Drafting sample letters and advocacy materials for the MDSC membership to use.
- Developing testimony and participating in hearings to advocate on behalf of the MDSC’s Legislative Platform.
- The Committee will research and develop new tools and systems to build an infrastructure for the MDSC and the Committee’s advocacy efforts. Some of the suggested tools and systems to investigate include Instatrac and Capwiz.
- Recruit and train MDSC members in all regions of the Commonwealth to act as a liaison in their local area for timely legislative needs.
- Collaborate with other Advocacy groups (i.e. NDSS and The Arc of Massachusetts) to work together on common legislative priorities and to participate in rallies, legislative receptions, and advocacy days, that will advance the MDSC legislative priorities.
- Increase the capacity of the Committee through providing in-service training opportunities on various legislative advocacy best practices.
Legislative and Administrative Advocacy Partners
The MDSC partners closely with dozens of legislators and administration officials, including officials at the state Executive Office of Health & Human Services, which includes the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). DDS is the state agency that provides services for people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome.
Legislatively, some of our closest allies, including State Senator Karen Spilka, serve on the MDSC’s Honorary Board of Directors, which acts in an advisory capacity to the organization’s official Board of Directors.
Organizational Advocacy Partners
The MDSC partners with state and national disability advocacy groups to advance specific legislation, overall policy initiatives and disability funding priorities. MDSC partners include, but are not limited to:
- National Down Syndrome Congress
- National Down Syndrome Society
- Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission
- Disability Law Center
- LuMind IDSC
- Massachusetts Advocates for Children
- The Arc of Massachusetts