Table of Contents
Advocating for yourself is very important because it lets others know that everyone, including people with disabilities, has rights. When you become a self-advocate, it helps others understand that you are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. This is the best way to express your needs and to have your voice be heard.
It is essential to your health and well-being that you have a clear understanding of the things that are important to you. To do this, you must develop strong self-advocacy skills. Take time to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You will need to determine what things you can accomplish on your own and what day-to-day tasks that may require additional assistance or support. Be ready to identify exactly what you need, who to ask, and how to ask for what you need.
Here are some tips to being an effective self-advocate.
Prioritize Your Goals
No one knows your needs better than you. Before you can advocate, you must believe in yourself. Know that you can make decisions about your own life and understand what is needed to improve your quality of life.
You matter most in this process. What do you need? What are your goals in self-advocacy? Your answers to these questions will help you decide your next steps.
Know Your Rights
It is one of your basic rights to know and understand the laws, court system, and the judges that determine those rights. Be sure to get a good understanding of the laws and structures that shape our daily lives.
You have the right, just like everybody else, to have access to the law and courts. You also have the right to receive the same treatment as everybody else by the law and courts. Reach out to Disability Rights Texas to learn more about your rights. You can also learn about your rights by exploring reliable information online, in books, through peer and community services, workshops, and more.
If you have a disability, you also have the right to:
- receive information in your primary language
- request an interpreter in your primary language, including American Sign Language (ASL)
- receive information in alternative formats such as Large Print, Braille, or other formats.
You can ask the agencies to provide an interpreter for meetings and/or for documents in your primary language or in an alternative format.
It is vital that you keep accurate records. This helps to prove your need for specific accommodations, durable medical equipment, and other services needed.
Be sure to keep important documents, assessments, notices, and letters in one secure and private place. Disability agencies will likely ask for these records and they will be used to support your self-advocacy efforts.
Prepare and Plan
When you begin to realize that you need additional services or equipment, prepare your list before making your appointment. Create a list of your present and future needs, especially the recommendations from your doctors regarding the services, accommodations, and equipment you should consider.
Before a meeting, reflect on your needs, review your documents, and talk with people you trust to help you prepare. Make a list or outline of what you hope to accomplish in your meeting and bring that with you.
Know What to Say and How to Say It
The tips below can help you have a successful meeting.
- Knowing and discussing your rights to services, accommodations, and equipment will help you get what you need.
- Make sure you keep your discussion short and to the point.
- You do not need to recreate your history for the agency representative; your medical records will do that for you.
- Write down in advance what you need so you don’t forget anything, and include back-up items in case some of the things you want are not available.
Self-advocacy looks different for everyone. Sometimes, you may disagree with someone or the steps being taken. Share when you disagree, communicate assertively rather than aggressively, and emphasize that working together is important to find the best solution for you.
Get Decisions in Writing
Getting information from health care professionals, government agencies, and other organizations about your specific case is critical. Once the discussion and decisions are put in writing, you can use them to help your case.
Keep track of your progress through documentation. Having everything in writing is good to look back on and review. If you disagree with a decision, ask for it—and the reasons for the decision—in writing.
Right to Appeal
Yes, this is one of your basic rights. “Right to appeal” is a legal term that means if you lose your case, you have the right to ask a higher court to hear your case again. Also, you are entitled to due process which refers to a fair judicial process. That includes a fair trial, qualified legal representation, and the ability to appeal.
If you do not get a decision that you are comfortable with, you have the right to challenge it. Ask for clear written information about the appeal process. Make sure you understand the process and timeline of this process. You are responsible for appealing within the timeline.
While you wait for a decision to be made on your case, consider other options by exploring what resources are available to help you in the meantime.
Not every issue will be resolved in your meetings. Talk with those involved about what short-term solutions will work until your long-term issues are resolved at a later point.
In order for a document to be enforceable, both parties must agree to the same terms and consent to the agreement, almost always in the form of a signature. Before you sign anything, consider the following steps:
- Review all notes, agreements, and action items from the meeting to ensure everyone involved is on the same page.
- Take time to read any documents, review them after the meeting, and consider discussing them with trusted people in your life to make an informed choice about signing.
- If necessary, suggest changes and sign only to what you agree to.
It is important that you follow up with the agency representative if you have not received the documentation or information requested. Stay on top of any final deadlines and communications. Remember to thank those who have helped you in this process.
This handout is based on Disability Rights Florida’s 10 Steps to Effective Self-Advocacy.
Publication Code: AC32
Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.
The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.
To request this handout in ASL, Braille, or as an audio file, contact us.Print This Page