What is Advocacy?
"Advocacy" can mean many things, but in general, it refers to taking action. Advocacy simply involves speaking and acting on behalf of yourself or others. There are several types of action that a person can take:
- Self-advocacy: taking action to represent and advance your own interests;
- Peer advocacy: taking action to represent the rights and interests of someone other than yourself;
- Systems advocacy: taking action to influence social, political, and economic systems to bring about change for groups of people; and
- Legal advocacy: taking action to use attorneys and the legal or administrative systems to establish or protect legal rights. (Advocacy Training Manual. Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy (1996), p. 1.)
This Advocacy Tool Kit provides individuals with information and skill building exercises to develop and enhance self and peer advocacy skills. The information contained in this Kit has been gathered and developed to assist individuals in Wisconsin, but may be helpful to those in other states as well.
The goal of this tool kit is to teach people with disabilities and others who are advocating for them, the skills and strategies necessary to be an effective advocate.
- Skills are techniques for becoming competent in an area.
- Strategies are plans for an approach to address an issue or solve a problem.
This Kit reviews Informal and Formal Advocacy Strategies. For the purposes of this Tool kit, Informal Advocacy Strategies are strategies that do not involve bringing in an outside decision maker. Formal Advocacy Strategies, on the other hand, typically involve an outside decision-maker. Examples of formal processes include court hearings, grievance procedures or complaint processes.
Although some of the sections in this publication are written with the self-advocate in mind, peer advocates (including family, friends and service providers) will benefit from the advocacy information and techniques throughout the publication.
Why advocate for myself or someone I know?
Whether you attempt to get a service provider to listen and respond to a concern or you try to get a landlord to fix the broken light in a stairwell of your apartment building, advocacy is practiced by people for many different reasons. For people with disabilities, frequent interaction with service providers, family members, friends, colleagues and others who may not recognize you as a decision-maker can disempower you. Learning about and practicing selfadvocacy and peer advocacy skills can enhance your role and confidence in making the decisions that affect your life.
While there’s no guarantee, advocating for yourself is the most direct way to secure change. And that change can mean more than getting the stairwell light replaced. Self-confidence, a healthier self-esteem and newly-gained respect from others can all be surprising by-products of the advocacy process.
How do I advocate for myself or someone else?
This Advocacy Tool Kit is designed to assist you in learning strategies and practicing some skills so that you feel comfortable and confident as an advocate. Everyone is different and has different life experiences. Because of these differences, there is not one magic formula that tells you how to be an effective advocate. Experiment with different styles and choose the ones that you feel are both comfortable and effective for you.
Now, let’s get started! Please click here to download complete tool kit
Produced by Disability Rights Wisconsin. Reprinted with permission. www.disabilityrightswi.org.