A Guide to Self-Advocacy – By Greg Felzenberg
Self-Advocacy is about making decisions, choices, solving problems, voting, and learning how to be assertive. The most important thing is to learn about your rights as a United States citizen. By self-advocating, you are exercising your right to stand up for yourself. Self-advocacy helps people with disabilities learn that it is OK to speak up.
First, it is important to know what the legislative branch is: the Senate and General Assembly. Knowing who your congressmen are is also a part of advocacy. Election Day is the most important day of the year for self-advocates because that’s when we can vote for local, county, state and federal government by learning about what issues they stand for. Self-advocacy groups should share this information with their supporters. Self-advocacy groups need to make sure people with disabilities get out to the polls and learn from the Board of Elections beforehand.
Self-advocacy is also about leadership and gaining those skills. It is important to know what it means to be a good leader. Examples of people who are leaders are people who run our nation. Everyone should learn by watching these people. Many advocates in New Jersey should try to take trips to Trenton and visit the State House. It is important to know where the funding for our services comes from. Federal and state legislation makes sure that people with disabilities are a part of the community. That is why it is important to get involved with your local and state government.
The list below outlines important topics/activities for self-advocates:
• Human Rights
• Legal Rights
• Community services
• Leadership skills
• Officer Elections of self-advocacy groups
• Achievements of self-advocates
• Advocacy field trips: Washington D.C. and Trenton
• Assertiveness training
• Partners in Policymaking
• State DD Councils
• Advocacy projects
o Letter writing campaigns
o Officer’s training
o How to run an advocacy meeting
o How to run a training
o How to work with other advocacy groups