The Interior Designers for Legislation in New York (IDLNY) Coalition promotes, supports, and protects the right for interior designers to be able to practice to their fullest abilities. Currently, IDLNY is working with lobbyists in the New York State Senate and Assembly to encourage legislators to support bills S1137 and Assembly Bill A3446, which will allow certified interior designers to submit drawings to their local building authority. If passed, this legislation would grant stamp and seal privileges to interior designers working within the scope of practice as defined by New York State law. In order to make sure the design community’s voice is heard, IDLNY recently launched a letter writing campaign. We talked to Dan Villella, IIDA, VP of Advocacy, IIDA New York Chapter, and a member of the IDLNY Board of Directors to learn more.
IIDA: Tell us more about the IDLNY letter writing campaign.
Villella: The letter writing campaign is a critical strategic element in the effort to gain support for bills S1137 and Assembly Bill A3446. It came together after months of steady and tenacious effort from IDLNY volunteers and the coalition partners to prepare the legislative path, gain support from key officials and legislators, and dot every “i” and cross every “t,” as this process of lawmaking requires. At this critical juncture, the legislative sponsors must hear from their constituents that these bills are worthwhile and necessary. Getting a critical mass of the design community to make their voices heard is absolutely crucial. That’s what this letter writing campaign is all about.
How did you promote the campaign?
Villella: To promote the campaign, the IIDA New York Chapter and the other coalition partners are engaging with the local industry by making announcements at events, distributing fliers, and sending email blasts. We have adopted a digital platform that makes it very easy to send these letters to both the Senate and Assembly bill sponsors. We call it, “Four clicks and two minutes.” People have started telling us it’s even easier than we make it sound: Follow the link, fill in your information, and hit submit. It’s really easy.
What impact are the letters having?
Villella: Since the letter writing campaign began a few weeks ago, our senate sponsor, Senator Tony Avella, has been very responsive. Early on, people were getting email responses from his office. Now we’re starting to see hard copy letters people are getting in the mail. It seems to be motivating his office in a meaningful way, and we hope it’s having the same impact on the State Assembly. We monitor these responses closely to strategically determine our crucial next steps. We hope to soon have sufficient signs of political support to expand the campaign to include all New York State Senators and Assemblypersons in order to gain even more support across the state.
How does the IIDA New York Chapter get people engaged in advocacy?
Villella: It’s a difficult task to help people understand that this legislation impacts them directly—especially those who have been working in the profession as it has been structured for so long. Often, it’s about personally connecting with people face-to- face and sharing facts and specific professional scenarios that can lead to a designer’s “Aha moment,” as to how this legislation can affect them, how it will improve their professional lives, and how it will further our profession-at-large. Because of this, we’ve made an effort to get out to as many events as we can and talk to people.
We’ve also encouraged all of our active IIDA Members to do the same, since they understand the broader picture of what is at stake. At the New York Chapter, we have been educating our board and committee members so they can speak directly and comfortably about the legislation, our immediate efforts, and long-term goals to advance the practice of the Interior Design profession in New York State. The more advocates we can create, the more advocates they will create, and the more word spreads. It really is grassroots!
Why is it important for all interior designers to be engaged in advocacy?
Villella: If we don’t speak for ourselves, who will? We are all our own advocates. When our elected representatives and other key officials see the same faces and names over and over again, there’s no way for them to know that there is industry-wide support. We all need to reach out and show our legislators that this is something they should support.
What does being engaged in advocacy mean to you?
Villella: Advocacy is probably the most hands-on way to affect our profession. While it’s something I feel I benefit from personally, what makes it important is the people it effects within our industry, whether they know about our efforts or not.
I’ve learned that change can only be affected if it’s asked for, and in turn fought for, and that’s what we do at IDLNY. The coalition has been fighting for the rights of interior designers in New York for over 30 years, and because of these pioneers, interior design is a recognized profession by the state education department. Now it’s time to earn our profession the status it deserves by extending stamp and seal privileges.
Want to be an interior design advocate? Join us this September in Denver for the 2nd annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium. In three days, you’ll learn how to build relationships with decision-makers, work with other stakeholder groups, and promote grassroots involvement – all while connecting with passionate interior design advocates like you. Register today.