An Advocate Is
Self-Advocate: Making sure you are able to get, or access, what you need. Being a self-advocate is fighting for what you as an individual need to go to school, work, live at home or to have access to healthcare. It means knowing what you need and then asking for that support. This may also mean thinking ahead to guess what problems you may have in the future, so you can act and prepare now.
For example: You want to go to a meeting, but you find out it’s held in an upstairs room with no elevator. NEED: You need a meeting to be located in a place that is accessible. ACTION [BEING A SELF-ADVOCATE]: You call those who are organizing the meeting and make a request [ask them] to have the meeting in an accessible place. You also, in a letter, educate and explain to them about what an accessible space means, [like not having any stairs, wide enough doorways, and access to a restroom that is wheelchair accessible].
Acting as a self-advocate can be done in many ways:
- Figuring out what you need or may need [like an accommodation for a test]
- Ask questions
- Talk to those in charge, let them know your needs
- Write a letter explaining what you need and why they should provide it [give you what you need]
- Keep records – keep notes of when you talk to people [names, dates and notes of what happened]. You can use this to show others you have been advocating for something over a long time.
- Find allies to help you get your point across [people who can give you ideas, who could review a letter or go with you to talk to someone]
- Trust yourself to know what you need, but be open to new ideas and/or ways to meet those needs
Community Advocate: A community advocate is someone who tries to make change for a community. They listen and learn from others in the community about issues and problems that they all share. They then try to create changes in society to help the whole community.
For example: NEED: You and others in the disability community want people with disabilities to have jobs with individual supports and to not have the only option be working in a sheltered workshop. ACTION: You all decide to talk to local agencies to ask them to find money for and to train job coaches. You also write letters to the newspapers and local law makers about the issue and ask for support. You all make a presentation at the city chamber of commerce [where local business leaders meet] and ask them to write a letter of support about people with disabilities working in regular jobs to the mayor. You all go to a mayor and council meeting and ask them to not fund [give money to] sheltered workshops, to instead fund job coaches and job training for people with disabilities.
Acting as a Community Advocate can be done in many different ways:
- Holding a meeting to talk about community issues people are having
- Deciding as a group action you want to take, or different ways everyone as individuals can work on an issue. Figure out how you’ll know if you have gotten what you want.
- Find facts/information to support your cause [this can be things like reports or personal stories people have written about the issue]
- Doing education [events to teach] with the pubic so they can understand issues
- Holding a rally
- Doing public skits or a play on the issue
- Writing a letter to be printed in the newspaper
- Trying to change laws, or get new ones passed
- Writing a letter to or visiting lawmakers [congress people, city council people]
Accommodation – something to make learning easier
Anticipate – thinking about what might happen
Right – what the law says you should get
Rehearse – doing it over and over
Responsibility – what you are supposed to do
Compromise – “giving in” a little to make a “deal”
Support – someone to help you
WAYS OF MAKING CHANGE
Adapted from Gene Sharp, The Methods of Nonviolent Action, Boston 1973
Nonviolently protesting, convincing, not working together and getting involved
- Writing your opinions – What is the problem?
- Speaking about what matters to you to other people [public speeches]
- Writing letters against or in agreement with an idea
- Having people sign petitions, which are letters many people sign to show they agree with something
- Using banners and posters to get your message out
- Writing brochures or pamphlets, which are like little books that tell your opinions about an idea
- Making newspapers or magazines
- Doing group lobbying, which means talking to people like your local Congressperson or mayor about issues that matter to the group
- Picketing, which means holding up signs, marching, or yelling about your issue next to a business or office that is your enemy on the issue
- Holding public rallies where many people can gather to show they agree or disagree with an issue
- Hold a meeting/training to teach people about your issue
- Holding vigils, where a group of people meet at an important place, stay for a long time [usually at night with candles] to show they think an issue is important
- Having public mournings, where people show their sadness if someone important has died or something bad has happened
- Holding a march where a group of people walk in their town to show their opinion about something
- Creating a parade to celebrate your issues
- Having a pilgrimage where many people walk a long way such as across towns or states to show the importance of their issue
Symbolic Acts, which are events that make people think of a bigger issue
- Giving mock or fake awards that can be funny and get people to think about the issue
- Having mock or fake elections where people vote to protest how an issue or election is being handled
- Doing a mock or fake funerals where people go to show that they believe something important has ended
- Showing respect where important people are buried
- Wearing symbols like pins, hats, and clothes to show your opinion about an issue
- Giving things or items to important people that mean something about your issue
- Taking off clothes to bring attention to your issue
- Fasting or not eating to force people to pay attention to your issue
Drama and Music
- Performing skits, plays, poetry, or music in places where lots of people are around
- Singing songs that tell about your issue
Not Accepting the Situation
- A “Walk Out” is done by a big group leaving a place they should be, all at once, because they believe something is wrong with the place. Like lots of students leaving school one day because they disagree with the dress code
- Using silence lets people show their disagreement on an issue because it makes them stand out from the crowd that is always talking about the issue.
- Not accepting an award or honor from a group can show people you disagree with what that group on an issue
Not Working Together and Meaning it
- A big group, like a city or a state, not having sports’ games or parties to show they are angry about an issue
- Boycotting, not being a part of things, like parties or dances because you disagree with something about them
- Having a student strike. This is when students do not go to class because they disagree with something the school has done
- Not going to places you disagree with something about like a club or church
Economic Boycotts are when people don’t buy certain thing to make a point
- Boycotting businesses happens when a group of people disagree with a business about an issue and decide not to buy anything from there
- Going to only certain stores to buy things because you agree with them on issues
- Having a stay-in strike means that a group of people stay in a store or business refusing to leave to show their opinion on an issue
- Giving stuff away and not buying stuff you don’t need
- Not paying rent on your house
- Not putting money in certain banks that you disagree with
- Not paying money you owe to people or certain places because you disagree with them on certain issue
Ways People who Work Protest
- A protest strike happens people who work at a certain place all stop working at once to show their opinion on an issue
- A work slow-down happens when many people who work at a place slow down doing work or making stuff to show their opinion about an issue
- A sick-in strike happens when people who work at a certain place all call in to say that their sick to stop work at the place to show their opinion about an issue
- A general strike happens when people who work from different businesses stop working all at once to show their opinion about an issue
Not Getting Along with the Government
- Boycotting elections is when a lot of people together do not vote in an election to show that they disagree with something about the government or election
- A group of people may refuse to leave a public place when they are told to leave by the police or others to show they disagree with something about the government
- People may refuse to go to war or leave the country because they disagree with something the government is doing
- Civil Disobedience is when people refuse to obey a law to protest it
- Many people may try to sign up for something that the government is doing to show that it isn’t working
Using Your Body to Protest
- A sit-in happens when a group of people just sit in a place like a business or a government office and refuse to leave to show their opinion on an issue
- A stand-in is like a sit-in, instead of sitting a group of people stand up and refuse to leave a business or a government office to show their opinion on an issue
- A ride-in happens when a group of people ride a vehicle like a bus and refuse to get off of it to show their opinion on an issue
- A wade-in happens when a group of people go into something like a fountain and refuse to leave in order to show their opinion on an issue
- A pray-in happens when a group of people pray and refuse to leave a place like a business or government office in order to show their opinion an issue
- A speak-in happens when a group of people take turns talking at a place like a business or a government office and refuse to leave to show their opinion on an issue
- A hunger strike happens when a group of refuse to eat for a long time in order to show their opinion on an issue
Make Your Own Ideas Work
- People trade work. For example you can baby-sit for someone and then they could help you fix your car
- Set up team bike rides or car pools where people ride together to a certain place
- Make a website that gets your opinions out there
Steps for Fixing a Problem Where Everyone Is Happy
- Name the problem you want to fix
Listen to every one and figure out:
- Who cares about the problem?
- What are all the things going on with the problem? What do you think is making it a problem?
- What does everyone, all the different groups, who care about the problem really want?
- Explain how you feel without putting other people down.
- Don’t talk too much about different things that haven’t worked to fix the problem in the past.
- Speak for yourself, only what your opinion is. Don’t say what how you think others feel. Say what you really mean.
- Get people to give as many different ideas as they can think of to solve the problem. Don’t talk about the ideas yet, just write them down.
- Remember to be creative [think of different kinds of ways]. See KASA’s tip sheet: Different Ways Of Making Change
- Look over the different ideas people came up with. Talk about them and see which ones everyone thinks would work. Pick the ideas people like to and make the problem better.
- Everyone agree to work on the ideas to fix the problem.
- Figure out a time in the future to meet and to check on how the ideas are working.
- End things with something nice like a handshake, smile or hug.
A good leader works with other people towards a goal.
What do you want? [to happen, to change, to create]
Some important questions for a leader to ask are:
- What is the issue? [What is the problem?]
- Who besides you relates to the issue? [Who are your friends/also care about the issue?]
- Who has the POWER to help you? [Who has the power to help get what you want?]
- What can they do?
- How can you best talk to them about your issue?
A Leader. . .
- Works well with others [good communication skills, can work well with a group of people]
- Can make a plan with others
- Is fair
- Doesn’t take all of the credit [lets people know all of the people who help them]
- Knows how to compromise [give and take]
- Looks at a situation from different points of view
- Is patient
- Is creative
- Is flexible [doesn’t always have to have things their way or exactly like the plan describes]
- Pays attention to what affects their community
- Is aware of current events, other work people are doing on the issue
- Can help different groups work with each other
- Knows what they are good at and what is hard for them to do
- Asks for help and gives help to others
Leading a Meeting
Sometimes it can be hard to lead a meeting. There may be a lot to think about, but here are a few tips to get you started.
- Plan ahead
- Make an agenda [meeting outline or schedule] that lists everything that needs to be talked about at the meeting. Include timeframes in your agenda [how long you want each task to last]
- Send the agenda out a week early.
- If someone else has to get any equipment or supplies for you please make sure that you put in your request early to give the person time to get you what you need.
- Be clear about your expectations for those who come to your meeting, and also about what benefits they may get from attending.
- A facilitator helps guide a meeting and keeps the meeting flowing. This person does not tell everyone what to do. Instead, he or she helps to make sure that everyone has a chance to speak so that the group can make decisions. It’s important to encourage discussion.
- Help the group stick to the timeframe set out in the agenda.
- Try to have all handouts ready before your meeting. It is helpful to send them out with the agenda. Make sure you also bring copies of all materials to the meeting, and make them available in alternative formats, even if ‘upon request’. [Alternative formats are different ways to share information. Examples of alternative formats are having documents in Braille or on a CD.]
- Make sure that the wording is as clear as possible to keep others from getting confused.
- • Know that you can do this. Think of this as practice. You will get better and better each time.
Leading an Effective Meeting
This is a short essay on tips for leading a meeting.
Meeting Basics: Leading a Meeting
This article includes tips for leading a meeting.
Remembering What Is Important
by Christina Mills
Christina Mills shares her personal experience as a young person going to school when the ADA was first enacted.
The school bell would ring at 11:50am and all my classmates would run off to lunch, laughing cheerfully, as if the best part of the day had finally arrived. Myself, on the other hand, would roll four rows down to the nurse’s office during t hat time, because children like me were not aloud to eat or play on the playground? My fun and excitement was to go from eating my lunch in the nurse’s office to then having one friend join me in the school library.
My third grade year at, South Oceanside Elementary, I will never be forgotten. In 1986, only a few years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, I was treated as an outcast. I was always getting strange looks and never feeling quite comfortable because of the way the school had portrayed my disability to my classmates. I was eleven years old when the A.D.A. was finally pasted and like most people, I had no idea what this A.D.A. meant to me?
Slowly, the schools I attended began to change and sort of except me. It was the warmest feeling I had felt in all of my education, thus far. I was finally able to play four square, handball, and all the other fun playground games that all that “normal” kids got to play. I was even aloud to hang out with more then one friend at a time! Of course, I still had no idea that this was all because of the A.D.A., but I was so happy to feel as if I fit in for once.
Without the A.D.A., I would not have been able to join my High School swim or water polo team because of the able-body vs. adaptive sports segregation that use to be okay. I would not have been able to ride the local bus to the mall or beach because they would not have to be equipped with lifts for wheelchair users. I would not have been able to get into most public places because the door of the business would not have had to be widen for my wheelchair. Most Importantly, I would not have been able to write this article because we would not have such willing agencies working with person that have disabilities. There are so many other great things that the A.D.A. has done for persons with disabilities. It is important to remember the value of A.D.A. as we continue our work in the disability movement.
Before 1990, when the A.D.A. was put into effect, there was little to no history on persons with disabilities. Instead, you would only be able to find medical information on what the disability you had consisted of and what negative effects it was going to have on your body. Luckily, the leaders of our community realized this was wrong and were able to advocate for our rights under the A.D.A. Two presidents ago, George Bush signed the A.D.A. and since then we have been striving towards equality.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has no been in effect for more then 10 years. It is now our job as youth with disabilities to continue this movement in the right direction. I told you the story of my early education because for many of us it is challenging to talk about how hard things can sometimes be.
In effort to keep the movement in full speed, we must all try to remember what is important and how we got where we are today. We should all stand proud of our disabilities and even prouder of the history that got us all here.