Are You an Advocate?

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!

Advocacy Types:

  1. Self-advocate: you represent yourself as a person with a disability, whether it is in health care, independent living, employment, housing, etc.
  2. Individual advocate: represents and assists a person with a disability in ensuring they receive equal rights and the care they require
  3. Group advocate: represents a group of people with disabilities
  4. 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:


  1. Writing letters to the editor
  2. Meet with media: local reporters, radio personnel, TV. stations
  3. Share disability information with elected officials; therefore bring to their attention the needs of the community


  1. Write letters, emails
  2. Make calls and visits to representatives
  3. Testify in committees


  1. Meet with advocates and staff regarding policy change
  2. Participate in forums of decision making
  3. Provide information about community services and needs to appropriate entities

Other activities

  1. Signing petitions, writing emails to officials
  2. Making donations to or volunteering with disability organizations
  3. Planning or taking part of disability events in your community
  4. Spread the word about the rights for PWD in talking to people, in social media, or other forms of communication (writing, art, blogging, etc.)
  5. Participate in a disability advocacy group (see links below)

Links of Interest:

American Association for People with Disabilities:

Civil Rights,

Disability Rights International:

National Council on Disability:


3 thoughts on “Are You an Advocate?”

  1. With Joy I am an Advocate -non stop , non relenting, hard core of late more so than the my prior 29 years with the barriers being placed and the need more intense and necessary.

  2. I am an advocate that covers nearly all of the forms.

    I even founded my own online TV Network all about Abilities, this is my seventh year of doing this. I am all for the creation of the Disability political Party.

    2012 I was the only individual that I know of ever allowed to broadcast the Paralympic Games. I was able to broadcast the London 2012 Paralympics from start to end. What a great event to see for the first time, along with tons of my viewers. Cost for the license: FREE. I had full permission from the IPC for over a year in advance.

    I took on Aetna Medical Insurance for a one off manual wheelchair, and after just 2 appeals, and a nice talk with the top most Medical Examiner, who was also the Chairperson of Aetna’s Board of Directors, and a Professor of Medical Science at Harvard, he looked my case over, spoke to all 18 of my then current doctors, and a long conversation of what I felt the medical needs where for me. Using only common day to day speak I was able to share why the wheelchair I was being requested was a medical need. I presented the limited knowledge that medical science had on the area effected, and also what had been done, what no longer would make medical ethical since, and would be considered as medially wrong to deny it.

    This was the real spark that got my going on this effort.

    Yes, I am an advocate. And, I am only warming up.

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