What is Advocacy?

Kathy PAn Advocate can speak, write or lobby on someone else’s behalf.  People with disabilities may become discouraged and can’t advocate for themselves, may be unable to speak up and indicate what they need, what has or has not worked, and what they want as opposed to what has been directed for them.  ILR works with you to advocate on your own behalf, becoming part of the plan for your independent life.

ILR is available to help people learn how to speak for themselves, helping all individuals who would like to become better self advocates. Building skills and self esteem enables individuals to ask for what they need to become or remain as independent as possible. It is necessary for persons with disabilities to develop these skills to more effectively impact, not only their needs, but to impact local, state and national disability policy if they so desire.

Types of Advocacy:

Self Advocacy: ILR staff will work with persons with disabilities to obtain necessary support services from other agencies in the community while providing skill training and support for increasing an individual’s self advocacy skills – the ability to speak on their own behalf.

Systems Advocacy: ILR staff, board members and volunteers initiate activities to make changes in the community that make it easier for all persons with disabilities to live more independently.  Through systems advocacy, ILR is able to address “systems” issues such as disability policy, civil rights, accessibility, funding for support services, discrimination, transportation, housing and economic justice.

Legislative Advocacy: ILR monitors the legislative process on issues at the local, state and federal levels that will affect the independence of people with disabilities, often educating law makers of the results of legislation, both positive and negative.  As effective as ILR’s connections with legislators is, it is significantly more powerful to hear these same results from those directly affected by lawmakers’ decisions: you.  ILR will work with you, supporting your efforts, training you in writing letters to Congress and testifying at public hearings.  ILR staff can also guide you through the process of working with legislators, teach you how to enact legislation, or file a complaint when you feel your rights have been violated.

Is it important for you to become an advocate?

There has been landmark legislation over the years protecting the rights of people with disabilities, with the most important legislation being the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Other legislation includes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Developmental Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

Do you know how your rights are protected under these laws, or how to access programs created under these laws?

Do you know your rights as a parent in developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child?

Do you know how to recognize and handle discrimination?

Are you confused about Social Security Laws, or which agencies and resources are available in your community?

Becoming an advocate means knowing the answers to these questions, and questions like these.  ILR staff can help you become an advocate and use your knowledge to make a difference!