Self-Advocacy is the process by which individuals with disabilities take an active and empowered role in advocating for their own needs, preferences, and rights within the context of the NDIS and the supports and services they receive. Self-Advocacy can be applied to any aspect of your life where you feel your voice needs to be heard.
This is particularly important for people with disability as historically we have seen exclusion, dependence and low expectations for people with disability and without the voices of the people impacted by these negative associations speaking up we may still be in this place. The Disability Discrimination Act alongside the hard work of grassroots Advocacy groups and the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has provided the platform of rights that people with disability can leverage off but the work continues.
Developing self-advocacy skills is crucial for individuals to effectively communicate their needs, preferences, and goals, and to ensure they receive the appropriate support and services. Here are some steps you can take to enhance your self-advocacy skills in this context:
- Educate Yourself:
- Learn about your disability, its characteristics, and how it might affect your daily life and needs.
- Familiarize yourself with your rights, both within the context of disabilities and any specific regulations or schemes like the NDIS.
- Understand the decision makers and processes within the areas you will need to advocate for yourself
- Set Clear Goals:
- Identify your short-term and long-term goals related to education, employment, social interactions, and personal development.
- Break down these goals into smaller, achievable steps.
- Know Your Strengths and Challenges:
- Recognize your strengths, talents, and abilities.
- Understand the challenges you might face due to your disability, and think about how you can address or work around them.
- Develop Communication Skills:
- Practice expressing your thoughts, needs, and preferences clearly and confidently.
- Work on your active listening skills to understand others better.
- Build Confidence:
- Believe in your ability to advocate for yourself.
- Practice positive self-talk and remind yourself of your achievements and strengths.
- Gather Information:
- Research the available resources, services, and support options for people with disabilities in your area.
- Understand the process of accessing these resources and how they might align with your goals.
- Practice Decision-Making:
- Make informed decisions about your daily activities, healthcare, education, and more.
- Consider the pros and cons of different options before making choices.
- Utilise a trusted person to talk through options
- Role play conversations around communicating decisions
- Seek Support:
- Reach out to family members, friends, mentors, or support groups that can provide encouragement and advice.
- Consider working with a Disability Advocate or Support Coordinator who can guide you through the process.
- Participate in Planning:
- Take an active role in planning meetings related to your support services or accommodations.
- Clearly communicate your needs and preferences to those involved in your care.
- Practice Assertiveness:
- Politely but firmly express your needs and preferences.
- Use “I” statements to communicate your feelings and requirements without sounding confrontational.
- Handle Challenges:
- Develop strategies to address and overcome obstacles you might encounter in advocating for yourself.
- Don’t be discouraged by setbacks; treat them as learning opportunities.
- Reflect and Review:
- Regularly assess your progress and the effectiveness of your self-advocacy efforts.
- Adjust your approach as needed based on what you’ve learned.
- Celebrate Achievements:
- Acknowledge and celebrate your successes, whether they’re small steps or significant milestones.
Remember that self-advocacy is a skill that takes time to develop. Be patient with yourself and recognize that continuous practice will help you become more proficient at effectively advocating for your needs and goals within the disability context.
If you would like more information on how to develop your Self-Advocacy please visit What is self advocacy? | How do I advocate for myself? (skill.org.au)