The other day I had a conversation with Ron Bercume (ILWAD co-founder) about what it means to be an advocate. He asked me, “Would I be considered an advocate?” My response: “Oh, definitely!” Ironically, before our conversation, I had been writing this article specifically on the different types of advocacy, in response to my own doubts.
I sometimes wonder, as Ron does, what it means to be a disability rights advocate. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of an advocate is someone who talks to local government representatives, stands on a podium to make speeches to the community, and is an in-your-face type of personality. Using that definition, I would say I’m not an advocate.
So that got me thinking, well, what am I? I promote people with disabilities in my own community, I have been an inspirational speaker for disability events, I took part in the first annual disability awareness parade in my city, I am a writer of disability topics, and I work with people with disabilities in assisting them in becoming independent and employed.
I did a little research on advocacy, and I learned some things I would like to share with you. I’m guessing that all of you are advocates, but you just don’t realize it. I’m here to tell you that if you support and promote the independence of persons with disabilities and are vocal about it in one way or another, then guess what? You’re an advocate! Below are some of the different forms of advocacy, where do you fit in?
I would love to hear your thoughts on what kind of advocate you are!
- Self-advocate: you represent yourself as a person with a disability, whether it is in health care, independent living, employment, housing, etc.
- Individual advocate: represents and assists a person with a disability in ensuring they receive equal rights and the care they require
- Group advocate: represents a group of people with disabilities
- Systemic advocate: involved in social change including helping to change policies, legislature, and promoting public awareness surrounding the topic of disability rights. You may also be involved with lobbying politicians, campaigning, and taking part of publicity events
Avenues to Display Advocacy:
- Writing letters to the editor
- Meet with media: local reporters, radio personnel, TV. stations
- Share disability information with elected officials; therefore bring to their attention the needs of the community
- Write letters, emails
- Make calls and visits to representatives
- Testify in committees
- Meet with advocates and staff regarding policy change
- Participate in forums of decision making
- Provide information about community services and needs to appropriate entities
- Signing petitions, writing emails to officials
- Making donations to or volunteering with disability organizations
- Planning or taking part of disability events in your community
- Spread the word about the rights for PWD in talking to people, in social media, or other forms of communication (writing, art, blogging, etc.)
- Participate in a disability advocacy group (see links below)
Links of Interest:
American Association for People with Disabilities: www.aapd.com
Civil Rights, Disability.gov: https://www.disability.gov/civil_rights
Disability Rights International: http://www.disabilityrightsintl.org/
National Council on Disability: http://www.ncd.gov/