Preparation is a very important factor in learning to advocate for oneself or someone else. It is very important to be prepared and have an appropriate plan of action. In order to accomplish this endeavor you will need to develop advocacy strategies. Below are a number of advocacy strategies you can use.
- Research information on your disability or the disability of the person that you may advocate for or represent. It is very important to learn as much as possible about the disabling condition(s).
- Learn civil rights and all other laws that may pertain to issues regarding the disability. Some of the pertinent laws are the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, Developmental Disabilities Act, Protection and Advocacy of Individuals with Mental Illness Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act., and all amendments to the acts.
- Research other resources that can benefit you or people that you may represent, such as agencies that promote independence and provide support.
- Create or have someone create for you a journal that documents any and all contacts made regarding an issue or problem.
- Always document or have someone document for you pertinent information such as who you talked to, when you talked to them and what you talked about.
- Always prepare before going to a meeting. Write down the issues that you want to discuss and any laws that support your position and pertain to those issues. Ask questions and make sure clarifications are made so that you understand what is being said at all times. If needed, take other representatives who support your position and can help resolve your issues to the meeting.
- When attending a meeting, try to record the meeting if at all possible or request that minutes of the meeting be taken. Ask for a copy of the minutes as soon as the meeting concludes.
- It is important to stay focused on your issues at all times during the meeting and to maintain assertiveness in seeking resolutions for the problem you face.
- Stay encouraged. Meet and talk with others who may share the same concerns or struggles that you may be experiencing.
(Source: Marianne Finely, Advocacy Program Coordinator, Tennessee Protection and Advocacy, Inc.)