Changing the Conversation



It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear

UCP recently worked with Maslansky + Partners, to define the perceptions certain influential groups of people have about the current state of disability. The results were unexpected, but logical and have led us to make some significant changes in how we approach advocacy. UCP’s national office invites you to join us in increasing the impact of the disability movement by changing the conversation.

Daughter in assistive chair with her father
It’s About People with Disabilities and Their Families.

Why This, Why Now?

  • Many of the major advocacy victories for people with disabilities happened more than 15 years ago (ADA, IDEA).
  • Enthusiasm for disability advocacy has stalled – nationally, we’re not talking about it as much as we should and not inspiring the action we once did.
  • Now more than ever before, people want to be involved in a “movement,” but feel like they are not – this includes people with disabilities themselves
  • We cannot let support and services for people with disabilities be ignored in upcoming elections.

What Can You Do?

Change the conversation: Use the SPECIFIC MESSAGES AND LANGUAGE RECOMMENDATIONS and CHANGING THE CONVERSATION LANGUAGE GUIDE featured here to inform more effective communications in your press releases, on your website, in your outreach and educational materials, in development appeals and in your advocacy work. Follow up with the SUMMARY FROM MASLANSKY + PARTNERS and to find out more about the study, how it was conducted and its conclusions.

Help educate the media: Use the materials in this toolkit to reach out to reporters about the importance of language in reaching their readers, or use the “Changing the Conversation” Language Guide as a conversation starter or leave-behind with editorial boards or members of the media with whom you have relationships.

Help inform policy advocacy efforts: Help candidates, lawmakers and policy influencers understand the power of the disability vote with some of the important statistics included in this toolkit and offer to help them more effectively communicate with their constituents who have disabilities as well as their constituents without disabilities about their support for policy impacting people with disabilities.

Grow your grassroots advocacy: Use the materials in this toolkit to reach out to appeal to your local community for support in language which will truly resonate. Educate your volunteers, staff and advocates on how to effectively engage new supporters on their terms and build a more inviting movement.



CHANGING THE CONVERSATION LANGUAGE GUIDE – use this booklet to give to staff, volunteers, advocates, community leaders, political leaders and the media to help educate and inform them about the nuances of the language we choose when talking about or reporting on disability issues and how we can work together to change the conversation.

SPECIFIC MESSAGES AND LANGUAGE RECOMMENDATIONS – use this document for specific messages and language examples you can use in your affiliate communications.

UCP Central PA Mission Moment
It’s About Opportunities, Not Rights.

SUMMARY FROM UCP – use this brief handout for a condensed overview of the research and language recommendations.

SUMMARY FROM MASLANSKY + PARTNERS – use this Powerpoint for a deeper understanding of the research performed and specific language and attitude recommendations for UCP from Maslansky + Partners. 

POLITICAL SURVEY RESULTS – use this document to understand the political characteristics of people with disabilities and their families/caregivers and use facts and figures found here when you advocate with policymakers to underscore the value of the disability constituency and why it is important to reach them with effective messages.