Do you remember those cellular commercials that bombarded us with the catchphrase, “Can you hear me now?” Guess what? Over time, it worked. A number of people switched their phone service to the company … maybe not because of the catchphrase itself, but possibly because of the totality of the message, repeated time and time again.
A simple and efficient message changed minds and perspectives. And we can do the same when it comes to advocating for our professions of audiology and speech-language pathology.
I’m an audiologist and not a minister, so I don’t need to preach to the choir regarding these issues, but please indulge me sharing my first experience participating in ASHA’s annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day.
In March, I partnered with dozens of other ASHA members heading to our nation’s capital to deliver important messages about issues affecting communications sciences and disorders, including comprehensive audiology/speech-language pathology insurance coverage, school-based billing needs and telepractice policy.
After filling up on an overpriced caffeinated beverage, I headed to the Senate offices of Maryland senior senator Ben Cardin to meet up with a speech-language pathologist. My new SLP colleague (who had previously advocated with ASHA) and I chatted in the waiting room until an aide summoned us into a small office to listen to our stories about issues affecting us and the people we treat. We drew on talking points on topics researched by ASHA staff. Periodically, the aide would ask questions, and we enjoyed a good conversation for around an hour.
After the meeting we snaked through a labyrinth of corridors until we arrived at the office of our junior Maryland senator, Chris Van Hollen. We repeated the process there, outlining our points (but in a smaller office).
I was impressed that ASHA-certified audiologists and SLPs participated in similar conversations with their representatives from Kentucky, Illinois, Montana, Pennsylvania and many more—all at the same time! We were advocating for our professions with one voice—and our lawmakers’ offices were listening to us and hearing us.
Will change come tomorrow or next week on the issues we raised? Who are we kidding, this is Washington, D.C., so it will take time and repeat advocacy efforts from all of us. But I know that all of us sharing our sustained and simple message can result in meaningful change—as we recently experienced with the repeal of Medicare therapy caps, for example. Events like Hill Day and taking action in other ways truly make a difference.
Will I participate in Capitol Hill Advocacy Day again? Yes.
Was it worth my time? Yes.
Why do I ask myself questions and answer them? I don’t know. I do know when lawmakers see the faces of health care professionals, they notice our efforts. It’s good for our representatives not only to read our emails and letters, but to hear from us in person—again and again and again.
Instead of “Can you hear me now?” I prefer “Can you in Congress hear us now?” Good! I think you will continue to hear more from us.
David Alexander, AuD, CCC-A, is a clinical assistant professor of audiology at Towson University, Maryland. He specializes in pediatric audiology. firstname.lastname@example.org