Self-Advocacy and Leadership Development

Self-advocacy refers to the civil rights movement for people with developmental disabilities.

It is about people with disabilities speaking up for themselves. It also means that they have the right to make decisions without other people’s influence. People with disabilities are often powerless when making decisions. Throughout their lives, they are not offered opportunities to make choices nor to control their living situations.

The self-advocacy movement for people with disabilities began in the 1960s and brought a new era to people with disabilities. People-first language is an example of how people with disabilities foster positive attitudes toward themselves. Historically, people with disabilities have been considered as individuals to be pitied, feared or ignored and the disability represented who they were. However, people-first language puts the person before the disability, and describes who a person is, and not what a person has. It also eliminated old and prejudicial descriptors, which shows more respect toward people with disabilities.

There is a national organization focused on self-advocacy of people with intellectual disabilities. “People First” has local chapter meetings throughout nation, which are organized and administered by people with intellectual disabilities. It is a great opportunity for adults with developmental disabilities to gather together regularly sharing information and life stories and learning to become more effective advocate themselves.