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Self advocacy

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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F77

What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is the ability to speak-up for yourself and the things that are important to you. Self-advocacy means you are able to ask for what you need and want and tell people about your thoughts and feelings. Self-advocacy means you know your rights and responsibilities, you speak-up for your rights, and you are able to make choices and decisions that affect your life. The goal of self-advocacy is for YOU to decide what you want then develop and carry out a plan to help you get it. It does not mean you can’t get help if you need or want it, it just means that you are making the choices and you have to be responsible for the choices you make.

Why is Self-Advocacy important?

It is important to learn self-advocacy skills because it helps you decide what you want and what is possible for you to expect. When you have good self-advocacy skills you can have more control and make the life decisions that are best for you. Self-advocacy helps to empower you, to speak-up for yourself and make decisions about your life.

When is Self-Advocacy useful?

  • When you want to be listened to
  • When you are being assessed
  • When you are making a complaint
  • When you are developing or reviewing a care plan

Where can you Self-Advocate?

There are many places that you might want to speak-up for yourself or ask for what you want such as:

  • At work
  • At school
  • At the hospital
  • At the shops
  • On Public transport

And many more places. If you are not happy with the way something is done then it is up to you to help change it. Nobody else knows how you feel or what you think- YOU need to tell people if you are not happy or you want something to change.

Who is a Self-Advocate?

  • Someone who says what they think and feel
  • Someone who speaks-up for things they believe in
  • Someone who knows and understands their rights and responsibilities
  • Someone who takes responsibility for their own life
  • Someone who makes decisions that affect their life
  • Someone who helps to improve their life
  • Someone who tries to change the way things are done

How do you Self-Advocate?

  • You need to decide what you want to speak-up about
  • You need to plan how you are going to speak-up
  • You need to speak-up for yourself
  • You need the freedom to be able to make basic choices about your life
  • You need to be given the authority to be the expert on your life; you are the one who has to live your life so you should be able to make decisions which affect you
  • You need to have support to make and achieve your goals, the final decision should be yours but it is good to have other people to help you
  • You need to be responsible for your decisions. You need to try to make the best choices and fix those that did not work
  • You need to believe you are able to do the things in your life that are not working and work towards the things that are important to you

Examples of self-advocacy in practice

Zoe’s story: The Value of advocacy

"How I got my six month placement with SEETEC

My previous advisor told me that I could do a six month paid placement in a nursery. I was really interested in this option. My advisor then left in April 2014 and then I had another advisor. I was told by my new advisor about the Work Choice Program and that I had an option to do the paid work placement for six months, as I have been working voluntarily.

On Wednesday 28th of May 2014 I had a meeting with the person who was in charge of organising paid work placements to discuss the six month placement. I said that I would be interested, as I am volunteering in a nursery. I would like to approach them to discuss whether they would take me. In order to be professional, I suggested that I should ask them first before they were contacted by SEETEC.

 On Monday 2nd June I spoke to my boss and to the head teacher of the nursery school and they said that they were happy for me to do my work placement with them. They asked me to ask SEETEC if there was anything that they needed to do. I phoned the person in charge of organising work placement on Thursday 5 June 2014 to inform her that the nursery that I was volunteering at the time was happy with me doing my paid placement. I texted the person who was organising the paid placements the details of where I volunteered and the name of my boss, so that she could arrange a meeting to discuss when I start my work placement.

When the person in charge told me that she had not been able to get hold of my boss, I gave my boss the person in charge of organising the work placements the contact details, but unfortunately whenever my boss called the person in charge of organising paid work placement, she was unable to get hold of her.

On Thursday 10 July I phoned the person who’s in charge of organising work placement to ask if she could phone my boss to discuss my paid placement only to be told that there was no funds in the pot and that the chance had gone. This was the first time that anyone had told me that there were limited funds and that I was in competition with others.

I was very disappointed and felt that I had not been treated fairly. Firstly, it was not my fault that my first advisor had left and I had no idea why the person in charge of organising placements was unable to contact the school when she had their details for well over a month. The school was very keen for me to stay but then I would have to go back to the school on Monday and tell them that it was all off. Which would have make me look incompetent and it was to be extremely embarrassing.

So I’ve then phoned Disability Rights UK and wrote to my MP for advice about what to do next as I felt that I was being treated really badly. I also did a lot of research on this and found that I was not the only one who was having the same problems.

The Disability Rights UK phoned me back to find out more about what had happened to me, whether they could phone SEETEC. They phoned SEETEC up and talked to my advisor on my behalf and then they phoned me back to inform me of their discussion. And then I went on holiday with my family to get away from everything. When I got back I received a text from SEETEC, asking me to call them back and talk about my work placement. I phoned them and said that I was still interested in doing the work placement, then they spoke to my manager at my work place at and to arrange a meeting with them to discuss what was involved and to sign off some paper work. If it was not for the Disability Rights UK I wouldn’t be where I am now I am very grateful for their support and encouragement. My advice for anyone, is not to give up when something like this happens but fight it. It’s worth it in the end.  http://disabilityrightsuk.blogspot.co.uk/"

Steve’s Story

“Last year I made a serious suicide attempt as a result of ongoing depression. I nearly succeeded in my attempt – I’m glad I didn’t now!

I was sectioned at first and when the section was lifted I remained in hospital. I knew I needed to get support. My family had turned against me and I was worried about my job. I started working with an advocate to help me through this time.

My advocate was brilliant, I know now that I had made great progress; after therapy I eventually decided to leave the hospital and face my problems. But the hospital wouldn’t let me leave. They threatened to section me again and kept me against my will. VoiceAbility supported me through this situation and is still helping me, this time to make a complaint against the hospital.

I know that I wouldn’t have survived without support. Being powerless is really scary and Trish and the team made sure that I understood what was happening and what I could do about it.

I work as a senior manager in a commercial company; now I plan on re-training so I can support others with mental health problems.

Thank you so much for everything you have done for me!” http://www.voiceability.org/what_we_do/secure_settings_advocacy1

Where you can go for more information about Self-Advocacy

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-30803000 - Young adult with disability has started posted a blog video or “Vlogger” as it called today about themselves, about how to their cope with their disability and tell about their day. 

http://m.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30859898 - More about Vlogger and a bit about Tyler Oakley how he started campaigning on Subtitles for YouTube viewer.

http://mytrexlife.weebly.com/ - This is Robyn Lambird Walton or T-Rex she prefers webpage. She has Cerebral Palsy and she said that she walks like a T-Rex. This webpage she off her skills and how confident.

http://ngsd.org/people-disabilities - This website is American but this page tell us what does self-advocacy means to those who tell us.


http://www.bild.org.uk/about-bild/bild-on-video/ - BILD stand for the British Institute of Learning Disabilities. Their want to help people with learning disabilities to be valued equally, participate fully in their communities and be treated with dignity and respect. They help develop the organisations who provide services, and the people who give support. They have a lot of video clip based on the people’s life as a disabled person. BILD make sure that our work is rooted in the real life experiences of people with learning disabilities and their families.

http://www.scope.org.uk/100stories - The scope have a page from different people with disability stories and quotes and about their life.

https://www.grapevinecovandwarks.org/what-we-do/strengthening-people/ - Grapevine is a learning disability organisation. This webpage contains information on their services for individuals, including advocacy.

http://peoplefirstengland.blogspot.co.uk/ - People first England


West Norfolk Self Advocacy Project is a group run by and for adults with learning disabilities and difficulties. Last year a few member post up their blog about saving their communities group.

http://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/raising-independent-kids-2/self-advocacy-strategies-ages/ - Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities provides information, support and inspiration to parents of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, while also educating the public about the remarkable gifts and talents of these kids. Although this website is from America, this page show the way of be self-advocate.

Useful resources

Books on self advocacy, including audio books

Online Biographies to inspire


  • Just type in a search

Celebrity quotes

I have two younger sisters and I'm such an advocate of owning who you are as a person. Don't be ashamed or intimidated. Never feel like you are not amazing. - Khloe Kardashian

My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically. - Stephen Hawking

The world worries about disability more than disabled people do. - Warwick Davis

Where I am today... I still have my ups and downs, but I take it one day at a time and I just hope that I can be the best that I can possibly be, not only for myself, but also young people that are out there today that need someone to look up to. - Demi Lovato

Sometimes, people can be extraordinarily judgmental and closed-minded to anyone different or special, which is why it's so hard for young people in this day and age to be comfortable enough in their own skin to not listen to the people picking on them. - Ariana Grande

Being cool is being your own self, not doing something that someone else is telling you to do. - Vanessa Hudgens

I love making new friends and I respect people for a lot of different reasons. - Taylor Swift

I just believe in the goodwill of people, the power of people to do something positive. - Eddie Izzard

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. - Robin Williams

I don't care who you are, life has challenges. - Tom Cruise

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.- Walt Disney

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.” - William Faulkner

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”- Dr. Seuss

Blog Pages - See Where you can go for more information about Self-Advocacy

Corrin McLelland  
20 April 2015

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