Self-Advocacy is helping and supporting people with disabilities speak up for their rights and for what they desire by helping each other take charge of their lives and to fight against discrimination. As a verb, self-advocacy is about advocating – lawyering – for oneself; instead of someone else (like an advocate) speaking for the individual. As a noun, it generally describes the grassroots, civil rights movement of self-advocacy including its associations and chapters.
The movement stresses the need for people with developmental disabilities to learn decision making skills and reinforces the need for understanding responsible choice in order to become more independent. Individuals learn about advocating for themselves by supporting each other and helping each other to gain confidence to speak out for what they believe in.” (Information provided by People First in Oregon, attributed to be the first self-advocacy movement in the United States.)
CRVI’s self advocacy groups are often open to individuals living in the community with their families, other agencies or those living independently. The chapters typically meet once a month. Elected officers (who are self-advocates elected by their peers) and advisors meet to discuss and plan the agenda’s for the meetings which are conducted by the officers. The objective of the meetings is for the members to learn how to advocate for themselves and to help others. This is accomplished by inviting other self-advocates and professionals to come and speak about ways and opportunities to advocate. Goals include educating new staff, educating themselves and other people with disabilities about their civil rights.
Members attend local, state and national conferences where they meet new friends, learn new skills, discuss important topics and speak with their legislators about issues affecting their quality of life. Members also plan their own annual conference which is held at CRVI and features keynote speakers and presentations on different advocacy topics.