Disability advocates provide assistance and support to ensure that:
- Your rights are upheld
- You are an active participate in the decision-making processes
- Your needs and views are presented to government, service providers and the broader community
However, it is very important to advocate for yourself. Even though there are numerous experts that can help you succeed, the best and most consistent expert is often found within – after all, no one knows you better than yourself! This doesn’t mean you have to know every law – just how to assert yourself and express your needs.
Here are some tips on being a good self-advocate:
Think about what you want to change. Before you take a stand, know what you want to happen. Do you want to be treated differently? Do you want something to be done differently?
Speak clearly and slowly. Start by saying something like, “I would like to talk with you about…” and then calmly describe how you see the situation.
Let the other person speak. Being a self-advocate doesn’t mean that you are the only one talking – the other person/organization needs a chance to respond to what you are saying.
Don’t expect immediate results. Change is not always instant – sometimes it takes many conversations, letters, etc. You may need to remind the person/organization more than once.
Ask for help. Not everything can be solved on your own so you can and should ask for help. If you’re not sure who to ask, look for help from an organization. The National Disability Rights Network can help you find an advocate.
Understand your disability. In many school and job situations, you may need to take the responsibility for explaining to others your exact needs. Practice speaking openly about your needs and strengths with your family and friends. This will make it easier in new situations and with people who don’t know you.
Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM)
The Jewish Federations of North America is involved with Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), held annually in February. The mission of this month is to unite Jewish communities and organizations to raise awareness of the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges of individuals with disabilities and their families as well as to support meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in every aspect of Jewish life.
Check with your local Jewish Federation for a calendar of events.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta continues to be involved in advocating for families and individuals with disabilities. There is always representation of disability issues in their lobbying efforts.
There are a few places in Georgia that can help you with this.
- Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is the state's leader in advancing public policy on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities
- Georgia Advocacy Office’s mission is to work with and for oppressed and vulnerable individuals in Georgia who are labeled as disabled or mentally ill to secure their protection and advocate on their behalf. GAO’s work is mandated by Congress, and GAO has been designated by Georgia as the agency to implement Protection and Advocacy within the state.
- Bobby Dodd Institute an organization that provides individuals with disabilities and their families opportunities to live independently
- Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability offers advocacy and leadership training
In Georgia, Centers for Independent Living (CIL), which are part of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia (SILCGA), provide individual advocacy and systems advocacy. You can find out more by contacting the center nearest to you.