Self Advocacy means speaking up for yourself and /or for others. People who speak up for themselves and others are called Self Advocates.
It can be scary to speak up for yourself and for others. You may be afraid to get in trouble if you speak up. People who want to speak up must be brave. It can help to have other people who will support you as you learn to speak up.
An important part of self advocacy is learning about your rights. As a citizen of the United States, you have the same rights as everyone else. You have the right to freedom of speech. That means you should be free to say what you need and want in your life and not be afraid to speak up. Ask someone to help you learn about your rights. SAU1 members can help you learn!
Can people who do not use words to speak be self advocates? Sure they can! As long as a person can let others know what he or she wants or likes, and does not want or like, he or she can be a self advocate.
People who are just starting to speak up might speak up about things that are important to them but that other people may think are small. For example, maybe the person wants a key to his or her own room, and asks for one. The self advocate may have to ask many times to get what he or she wants. It is important to know that you have the right to ask for what you want and need in your life.
Some self advocates have spoken up for big things, for themselves and for others. They have talked to the people in our government who make the laws. They tell them why a law may be important to have or why a law may be a problem for people. It was because of self advocates who spoke up that PA now has the Adult Protective Services Act to help keep people safe.
Some self advocates have spoken up about where and how they live. Some people do not want to live in institutions, but want to be able to live in their communities, which is their right under the Olmstead Act. These self advocates went to the Disability Rights Network and were part of a lawsuit to fight for the rights of the people who want to live in the community instead of in an institution.
SAU1 members advocate at many places. They meet every month with the Deputy Secretary of the Office of Developmental Programs and tell him what they have learned from self advocates across the state. Members visit their legislators and tell them how important it is for people with disabilities to have the supports they need to be healthy and safe. They also advocate in small ways, with transportation providers, service providers, and others who may need to learn about what is important to people with disabilities.
And every month except for November and December, SAU1 hosts a free teleconference for people with disabilities and the people who care about them. The teleconference is always on the 4th Friday at 1 pm. When you call in, you will hear what SAU1 members have been doing. You will also hear about ways people could speak up to make changes. At the end of each call, you will have a chance to share your ideas or ask your questions. Go to our events page to find out what the next teleconference will be about and mark your calendar!
Think about what you want in your life. Think about who can help you get what you want and need. Think about who you need to talk to. Then start — pick one thing and ask for it. Keep asking until you get it. You may have to ask different people. You can also ask people to help you speak up. SAU1 members will help anyone who asks for help.
Are you worried or afraid about something where you live? Are you afraid to tell your direct care staff or your provider? You have the right to tell the Office of Developmental Programs about your worries or your fear. You do not have to give your name if you do not want to. You do have to be able to tell them what is happening, when it is happening, where it is happening, and who is doing it. People are there during the day on weekdays, or at other times you may leave a message. Here is the information to call the toll free number for ODP Customer Service:
And (Telephone for Hearing Impaired ONLY) Toll Free TTY Number
Do you want to learn more about being a self advocate? Call our message line at 1-877-304-7730 and one of our members will call you back. We will tell you about our free training on Self Advocacy. We will do what we can to help you speak up for yourself and become a self advocate!