As a disabled person, it’s easy to feel invisible, but we don’t say that word here! If you’re feeling unequal to those around you, or that your community isn’t supporting you, it’s time for you to advocate for yourself.
Don’t know what advocacy is, or how to do it yourself? We’ve got you covered. You might even want to add it to your self-care plan.
What is Advocacy?
Let’s start with what advocacy is. By definition, advocacy is the act or process of supporting a cause. When we’re feeling helpless, it’s hard to stay positive and that can cause problems in the long run. We are NOT invisible and should advocate for ourselves regularly.
If you have someone who will step in and advocate for you, that’s great and all but doing it for yourself is going to make you feel empowered. The more empowered you are, the more independent you’ll feel. Trust me, advocating for yourself is good for you.
Where Should I Advocate for Myself?
Everyone’s situation is different, but self-advocacy is important in all areas of your life. Maybe your caretakers aren’t listening to you, or family is overstepping boundaries. Sitting back and letting people walk all over you is not cute.
If you’re working, you might feel like no one is taking you seriously because you’re in a wheelchair or can’t speak like everyone else. Being treated differently because of your disability should never be tolerated, and you have a right to speak up for yourself.
Perhaps you’ve been unable to go to a park in your neighborhood because your wheelchair can’t get up the immaculate stairs they built. Don’t worry, there are people you can contact about this.
Another place to be sure to advocate for yourself is the airport. This is especially important for those of us in wheelchairs.
Advocating for Yourself
This is the important stuff. Once you’ve got something you’re pissed about, SAY SOMETHING. If you don’t know where to start, the internet will point you in the right direction. There are several ways to practice self-advocating in an effective way.
If you’re struggling with confidence, consider speaking with a therapist to help you flesh out what you want to do. Never underestimate the power of a good therapy session to help you figure out what’s, bothering you and how to attack it properly.
After you’ve done your research, make appointments with the right people. Showing up randomly and getting kicked out will be a cool story, but you’ll probably lose your shot at being taken seriously. We’ve got some tips on how to speak to government officials for you.
In person will make a bigger impact no matter who you’re talking to. A face-to-face interaction is also great for dramatic effect, of course. For instance, showing up in your wheelchair to talk about a place without ramps will be much more effective in person than over the phone.
Advocating for yourself at home with family members? Build up that confidence and say something. You have nothing to lose other than more time feeling frustrated with what’s happening. You’ll feel better once you do, trust me.
Tips and Tricks
Being an advocate for yourself isn’t going to go smoothly 100% of the time, and that’s alright. Once you start doing it, you’ll learn what works best for you and what to do differently. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Know Your Rights
This is SO important. I’m serious. If you think you know everything, you don’t. Research, research, research. There are equality laws in place and disability acts you should look into depending on your situation.
Knowing your needs, strengths, weaknesses and who to ask for help is essential when advocating for yourself. Taking time to reflect and figure yourself out in therapy, talking to friends, or wherever can help you pinpoint the areas you need advocacy the most.
Know Your Support System
You probably have a care team and friends or family around, so talk to them! Bounce ideas off of them, have them help you if you need it. Advocacy is done best with a support system to back you up.
Benefits of Advocating for Yourself
Advocating for yourself isn’t just about the result, it’s about building your confidence. Learning to speak up when you need to is an invaluable skill for someone with a disability. It’s your life and you call the shots.
No one knows what you need better than you, and practicing advocacy will help you have a better understanding of that. You will learn so much along the way to help you in the future.
To sum it up, advocacy is incredibly important for a person with a disability. Knowing your rights and speaking up for yourself can help you and others in your same position. Confidence is key!
Practice makes perfect, and it isn’t going to always end in your favor. Doing research and knowing the laws will put you in a good place to speak to government officials, and when in doubt always consult with someone.
It is YOUR life. Do not sit back and let injustices occur. Get that ramp built, make sure your caretakers are listening to you, and advocate for yourself always. I’ll be waiting to see the security footage of you being thrown out of a government office on YouTube!