What is Everyday Advocacy?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines advocacy as “to support or argue for or plead in favor of”.
Being able to advocate for a cause or for oneself is important if we want or need to get the responses we desire. Many people think of advocacy as only legislative advocacy, but it is so much broader. People hear the word advocacy and immediately think, “I could never do that. I don’t have the experience or skills.”
However, we all advocate for things we want, need, and wish for on a regular basis. Some of us may do it more often and more effectively, but we all do it.
How often have you had to speak up for yourself to correct how someone pronounces or spells your name? When have you ever had to return an item you bought because it was the wrong size, color or didn’t meet your needs? Have you attended your child’s IEP meetings to ask for additional ways to assist their learning? These are all examples of advocating.
Encouraging someone with a disability to advocate for themselves is an important way of preventing that person from being taken advantage of. The more each of us is able to speak up for ourselves and ask for what we want (and don’t want), the less likely we are to become a target or victim. Being an advocate for yourself or encouraging someone to advocate for themselves doesn’t take special skills, just your voice and a willingness to speak up.
The St. Louis Arc is always looking for individuals with disabilities and/or family members who would like to share their personal stories with legislators. Why? Because many legislators have not met someone with a disability and don’t know what is involved. Education is the key to helping legislators understand disabilities so that they, too, can advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and their families. Legislators rely on people like you and me to help them understand. People’s stories about how they navigate through their day can be routine for you and your family, but enlightening for legislators.
So what are you going to advocate for today?