What is advocacy?

Effective disability advocacy promotes, protects and supports a person’s, or group’s, full and equal human rights.

Advocates support or work on behalf of a person with disability to help them to speak out and defend their rights and interests.

There are six main models of advocacy:

  • Self advocacy
  • Family advocacy
  • Citizen advocacy
  • Individual advocacy
  • Legal advocacy
  • Systemic advocacy.

All advocates

While advocates work in different ways under each of these models there are some key aspects to being an advocate that apply to all.

Advocates need to:

  • listen to the person they are working with
  • find the issues that they can help them with
  • give the person information about their options for addressing the issues
  • help them to present and express their views and wishes to others
  • help them to understand and defend their rights
  • be independent and be on the side of the person with disabilities and no-one else’s.

How to self advocate

Self advocacy is when you advocate for yourself. This doesn’t mean you are alone. Disability advocacy agencies can help you learn how to express yourself and stand up for your rights as well as give you advice and support.

Being a self advocate means that you can make your own decisions and make sure that others respect your choices. You will be in charge of the advocacy process and as part of that you can ask for support from other people. But you decide what support you need.

How to be a family advocate

Family advocacy is when a family member of a person with disability advocates for that person. You will support your family member to help them get what they need to live a full and equal life.

Advocacy agencies can support you to learn how to advocate for your family member and how to speak out on their behalf.

As a family member, you know the person better than anyone else and are often best placed to be able to promote their views and wishes.

How to be a citizen advocate

Citizen advocacy is when a member of the community offers their time to work with a person with disability to advocate for them. A Citizen Advocacy agency will match you with a person with disability and support you to learn how to advocate on behalf of that person.

You will develop a relationship with that person and support them to have their voice heard.

Individual advocacy

Individual advocacy is when a professional advocate supports a person with a particular problem. An individual advocate either supports a person one-to-one or supports them to advocate for themselves.

The advocate will support someone with an issue they’ve not been able to solve on their own.

An individual advocate must be independent, only be on the side of the person with disability, and only represent their interests.

Legal advocacy

Legal advocacy is when a professional advocate with legal experience helps a person with disability with a legal issue. The advocate can help the person through the justice system and to understand their legal rights. They can also stand up for a person if they are being discriminated against, abused or neglected.

Legal advocacy can also help make changes in the law so it works better for people with disabilities.

Systemic advocacy

Systemic advocacy works to solve an issue that affects a large group of people with disability. The sorts of issues this advocacy addresses are often a problem with the system, meaning that a lot of people are experiencing the same problem.