While public policies are aimed at creating a framework for our lives that offer protection and support, many that are currently in place produce effects that are unjust. When negative social impacts caused by policies are discovered, it is the people’s duty to collaborate to revise these laws. In a democracy, the policies in place should reflect the values of the people. Through strategic support efforts, individuals can work together to greatly impact policy that benefits its citizens. Advocacy is much more than just proclaiming one’s belief for something. Advocacy is the physical support that contributes to a change.
What does it mean to be an advocate? A self-advocate of the disability community encompasses the meaning fully, stating advocacy is “knowing your rights and responsibilities. Self-advocate means standing up for your own rights. Self-advocate means speak for yourself and make your own decisions, being more independent, standing on your own two feet and sticking up for your rights" (Anderson 2017). Advocacy is multifaceted, and elicits results through continuous and thoughtful actions. By further interpreting this meaning, an individual can understand the fundamentals of being an advocate and begin to make a change in policy.
1. Knowing your rights and responsibilities.
To begin the path to advocacy, one must be knowledgeable of the legislative system and the meaning of the laws in place to protect an individual’s rights. Through this understanding, an individual is able to navigate the political system and make effective efforts in supporting revision for better policy.
2. Speak for yourself.
The values of a community cannot be known if the citizens of the community do not contribute to the conversation. While elected officials are appointed to represent and promote policy that is beneficial to society, it is the duty of the citizens to create a voice that guides policy makers to create effective laws.
3. Stand on your own two feet and stick up for your rights.
To instigate change against policies that are inconsistent with a community's values, participation from the individuals of that community is essential. Standing on your own two feet and sticking up for your rights reflects individuals of the community voicing their opinion and not conceding to unethical policies.
As stated above, the fundamentals of being an advocate involve: understanding your rights, staying informed, and participating in strategic movements that contribute to revising policy. Advocacy empowers a community and allows for the voice and values of that community to be heard, and therefore, utilized in the installation and revision of laws. Being an advocate means influencing the laws that influence you.
By Haley Hajjali / U of M
1. Anderson, Sian, and Christine Bigby. “Self Advocacy as a Means to Positive Identities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities .” Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities , vol. 30, 2017.
The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) is a broad based coalition
of advocacy and provider organizations working to change public policy to improve the lives of people with disabilities through building awareness, providing education, and engaging the community.
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Minneapolis, MN 55413