I’ll be brutally honest right up front here.
I am ashamed to say that before I had a daughter with disabilities, I was totally unaware of just how insensitive, uncaring, and even cruel our world can be toward people who have special needs.
I had absolutely no idea how unprepared our world is to accommodate those with special needs so that they can easily be included in all aspects of society.
I had no idea just how many people with disabilities are discriminated against.
I had no idea that many people with disabilities feel isolated and lonely.
I had no idea how that many people with disabilities live in poverty.
I have not always been an advocate for the disabled. Ashamedly, it was just not something I ever thought about because it did not affect me or a loved one.
A disability advocate can be anyone who is passionate about helping people with disabilities live happier, safer, and healthier lives both physically, mentally, and emotionally and helping to ensure that they enjoy the same rights as everyone else.
So how does one become an advocate for the disabled?
- Don’t leave the fight for disability rights to the policy makers. Historically, direct action by the disabled and advocates have been the most effective in getting satisfactory results!
- Keep yourself informed: Know the laws protecting people with disabilities. Make it your duty to know what’s going on with disability policy makers in Washington. Know what laws and bills are pending.
- Know your legislators’ position: Contact your legislators. Make your concerns about the disabled known.
- Know what’s going on in the courts: Keep yourself apprised of court cases concerning the disabled.
- Raise Public Awareness: Educate the public about disabilities in general and/or specific disabilities and the issues, obstacles, and concerns people with these disabilities experience.
- Use Social media to spread awareness.
- Enroll in a disability advocacy training course or purchase books and curriculum to home educate yourself!
- Join disability rights groups
- Donate to disability rights groups.
Disability Advocacy Resources:
- The Disability Rights Network: The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) works to improve the lives of people with disabilities by guarding against abuse; advocating for basic rights; and ensuring accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems
- Program Development Associates: Disability Training resources. We currently specialize in distributing disability DVDs and training curriculum to assist human service and special education professionals providing services to adults, teens and children.
- Tash: By striving for fully inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities, TASH ensures that all individuals have the opportunity to learn, work, and enjoy life amongst a diverse community of family, friends, and colleagues.
- Disability Rights Advocates: With offices in California and New York, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA is run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities.
- Understood: Here you’ll find a quick guide to how to start being an advocate. You’ll also find key tools and resources to help you change your school, community and even the country.
- A Guide to Disability Rights Laws:This guide provides an overview of Federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. To find out more about how these laws may apply to you, contact the agencies and organizations listed below
- Disability Rights:
There are one billion people with disabilities in the world, many of whom struggle for even their basic rights and remain invisible, abused and neglected in their communities. Many people with disabilities – physical, sensory, intellectual or psychosocial – live in poverty, lack access to health care or education, suffer physical or sexual violence, or languish in horrific institutions for years. We are working to change that.
- ACLU: Disability Rights: The ACLU strives for an America free of discrimination against people with disabilities, where people with disabilities are valued, integrated members of society who have full access to education, homes, health care, jobs, and families. We are also committed to ensuring people with disabilities are no longer segregated into, and overrepresented in, civil and criminal institutions such as nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, jails, and prisons.
- Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund: The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.
- disABILITY Link: The Center for Rights and Resources: disABILITY LINK is an organization led by and for people with disabilities and promotes choice and full participation in community life. Their Motto is “Nothing about us without us!”
- And finally, don’t overlook working with your local agencies for the disabled, such as Centers for Independent Living, Resources for Independent Living, ARC, and disability specific agencies!
I hope these tips and resources will light a fire within you to begin advocating for the disabled. You have plenty of practical information to get you started. There’s nothing stopping you now!!