Latino Strong: The New Voice of Advocacy

As the result of the Developmental Disabilities Council’s (DDC) ongoing efforts to provide outreach to minority communities, the Council is seeing some exciting growth in the participation of individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds in its Local Leadership project.

Known as Partners in Policymaking in other states, the Local Leadership project is the DDC’s approach to developing leaders who create tangible impact on local communities, as well as state and federal governments.

The purpose of the project is to create a lasting base of individuals and parents who remain active advocates and change makers at the local and state level long after each local project runs its one-year course. The project has shown great success over the years, creating leaders who have moved into local and statewide positions of advocacy and policy development.

In 2012-2013, the King County Arc held classes for Latino, Somali, Asian and African American participants, who were all bi-lingual.  In 2014-2015, the Arc of Snohomish and Yakima counties conducted classes with all Latino members, some of whom were bi-lingual.  Materials were translated and interpreters utilized.

According to co-coordinator of the Snohomish group, Catalina Angel, “The Leadership training has been a platform for immigrant parents to gain advocacy skills and learn about the systems that support their children with disabilities.”

Snohomish County Leadership

This past month, the three Local Leadership groups attended an intensive on-site legislative training in Olympia, where two of the Snohomish groups’ Latino legislators visited with the participants; Representative Luis Moscoso from the 1st district, and Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self from the 21st.

Yakima Leadership
(L-R) Jesus Ramos (Sunnyside), Joel Tovar (Mabton) and Itza Reyes (Toppenish)

“The participants in our Yakima County program are excited to polish their skills in advocacy and become leaders in our local Hispanic community on I/DD issues,” says Linda Fox, coordinator of the Yakima Leadership program. “Itza [Reyes] reminds us that ‘disability is in all cultures’, and looks forward to developing cultural bridges that connect all citizens and strengthens collaboration on the I/DD issues we face.

With the increasing push toward ethnic outreach, the Council hopes to see more individuals and families empowered to make changes that include their values and vision for the community.


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