I’ve got advocacy on the brain lately. How to do it, who does it and when it should be done. Lots of ideas floating around and I’m still trying to solidify everything. I’m co-facilitating the next round of advocacy workshops at disABILITY LINK; the name of the course is “take ACTION!” It will be an eight week course that helps participants get in touch with their inner advocates. I was a participant in the first round of trainings that were offered last year. It was a great experience where I learned a lot. We covered different types of advocacy, a little of the history of the disability and IL movements and strategized ways to to make our voices heard.
Sharing experiences with the other participants was one of my favorite things in the course. Having that sense of “I’m not alone, other people have had similar experiences” was very meaningful. This brought home the impact and meaningfulness of peer support (one of the four core services, along with advocacy, information and referral and IL Skills training, of every Center for Independent Living). We may have varying backgrounds and disabilities, but there are common factors that bring us together and help form a sense of community.
I stated numerous times that the majority of my experience was with self-advocacy before I started working at disABILTIY LINK. It struck me that the reason was I never felt like a part of the disability community until recently. Throughout middle, elementary and high school I worked one-on-one with a “vision teacher” three times a week, I knew of one other student that she saw, but that was it. I was always taught to be very independent and self-sufficient, group advocacy had never really been brought up. After I got to college I was, once again, taught to be self-sufficient and advocate for myself and needs. I knew that I could rely on my VR counselor for advice and to back me up if there was an issue, and often had to when working with the housing office, but the idea of peer support wasn’t relayed. Even the office of disability services didn’t really create a welcoming atmosphere, so I chugged along.
Years later a friend began working for disABILITY LINK, a group that I had never heard of before. Centers for Independent Living, IL, the disability rights movement and Independent Living movement: these are all things that I had been unaware of. Ignorant of the actions and the struggles that had taken and were taking place.
Working at disABILITY LINK helped me feel more connected to these movements and participating in take ACTION! gave me some important background as well as practical knowledge for effective ways of advocating as an individual and as group in various ways. I was happy to be part of the first class and and thrilled to be co-facilitating the second round.
For more information about take ACTION! and future classes contact Ken Mitchell, Advocacy Coordinator at disABILITY LINK, at 404-687-8890 ext 103 or e-mail: kmitchell@disABILITYLINK.org