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From self-advocacy to societal effects

In this video, presenters who work in the area of disability share their ideas and examples of advocating for themselves and others.

In the video above, Zoe Partington-Sollinger and Denise Beckwith give some examples of self-advocacy and individual advocacy.

Zoe explains how certain experiences in her life drove her to become a stronger advocate for herself and her children. She gives a good example of direct self-advocacy: taking control of, and where necessary, challenging, the disabling assumptions in medical care.

Denise explains why some people with disabilities will need others to advocate on their behalf, and she tells the story of a young woman who needed her help to improve a difficult living situation.

Zoe and Denise illuminate how one’s advocacy needs and skills may change over the course of their lives, and their examples illustrate how important advocacy can be during major life transitions — such as moving out of the house for the first time, giving birth to a child, or entering the mainstream education system.

Zoe also describes how having the backing of her diabetologist helped her to advocate for herself within the medical system. In Step 5.11, Zoe discussed the power of Disability and Deaf Arts as a way of building strength within the disability community, and she described a situation where a Julie McNamara song — inspired by the singer’s experiences in the mental health system — prompted Zoe to advocate for herself in her own medical situation.

Whilst many disabled people advocate for themselves a daily basis, they also often act together to share discriminatory experiences of, and ways of challenging, existing practices.

For example, the self-help and advocacy movement around mental health services developed in the 1970s, when former psychiatric patients came together to organise patients’ rights against forced treatment, stigma and discrimination; and often to promote peer-run services as an alternative to the traditional mental health system. There are many grassroots self-help groups of consumers/survivors, local and national, all over the world.

Talking points

  • In what ways do our advocacy needs and skills change over the course of our lives?
  • Why might there be particular advocacy needs during major life transitions?
  • How can self-advocates support one another?

In the next steps, we look at some examples of advocacy at the grassroots and community levels.

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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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