REDEFINING THE PROBLEM
Like other civil rights movements, the self-advocacy movement through many independent groups has identified issues and developed strategies for creating change. The following is a sample of issues pursued by self-advocacy groups:
- closing institutions;
- creating legislation to prevent abuse in group homes and large public institutions;
- changing stereotypes of disability;
- changing the criminal justice system to protect people with disabilities;
- receiving real pay for underpaid employees;
- demanding "real" health care and "real" jobs;
- increasing membership in local civic groups;
- creating inclusive public schools.
THE ROLE OF THE SUPPORT PERSON
The success of self-advocacy groups, which were formed partially in response to professional and parental attitudes, is largely contingent upon the support of advisors who do not have intellectual disabilities.
All people need support, advice, and encouragement in their daily lives. The type of support and assistance needed depends on the individual, and his or her personal desires and circumstances. Self-advocacy groups recognize this need, and have described the role of the support person as that of advisor, facilitator, and friend. The relationship is one of mutual trust, understanding, and respect. The key to being an effective support person is to support, not control.
As the self-advocacy movement grows, the role of the advisor may shift more to persons with disabilities. Bernard Carabello, a national leader in the movement, has asked "How long do I have to be a self-advocate before I can become an advocate?" A few self-advocates, including Mr. Carabello, have taken positions as paid advocates and consultants.