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SELF ADVOCACY

Personal Self Advocacy

What does self-advocacy mean?

Self-advocacy means that you can speak up for yourself about the things that are important to you. You are able to ask for what you need and want and tell people about your thoughts and feelings. You know your rights and responsibilities and you speak up for them. You can make good choices and decisions.
Self-advocacy means you can decide what you want and develop and carry out a plan to help you get it.

Why are self-advocacy skills important?

Good self-advocacy skills are important because they give you the power to speak up for yourself, have more control and make decisions about your life.

If you are not happy with the way something is done then it is up to you to help change it. Nobody else knows how you feel or what you think; you need to be able to tell people if you are not happy or you want something to change.

When is speaking up for yourself important?

  • when you want to be listened to
  • when you are making a complaint
  • when you are developing or reviewing a plan

How do you begin to speak up for yourself?

  • Be confident. You decide what you want to speak up about
  • Know your goal and your plan to reach it
  • Know your rights and responsibilities
  • Know how to solve your problems
  • Know your support network. Ask for support from others if you need some help
  • Know how to give and take (negotiate)
How do I get people to listen to me?
You may have to work hard to get others to understand what you want.

People will be more apt to listen to you if you have respect for yourself and for the person you are speaking to. By speaking up for what you believe, think and feel, you are using your right to live your life in the way you wish. At the same time, you have to take responsibility for your plan and decision.

Sometimes your plan or goal may need to change or need some other supports.

Negotiation is about speaking and listening. Always stay calm and relaxed. By working together, you can solve disagreements and work towards a solution or plan that can make both of you happy.

Do you know your rights?
Everyone has basic rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights/Convention on the Rights of the Child/Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities; the Child and Youth Charter of Simcoe County Child, Youth and Family Coalition. These rights protect you from discrimination due to:

  • Ancestry
  • Colour, race
  • Age
  • Citizenship
  • Language
  • Disability (physical, developmental, mental health)
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Culture, creed
  • Family or marital status
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Receipt of public assistance
  • Record of offences
  • Sexual orientation

If you are a person served by Catulpa Community Support Services, you are also protected under the Catulpa Community Support Services’ Statement of Rights for Persons Served.

Do you know your responsibilities?
You have the same responsibilities as all other Canadians. These include:

  • Obeying the law
  • Taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family
  • Serving on a jury
  • Voting in elections
  • Helping others in the community
  • Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment

You have the right and the responsibility to give any agency or service provider feedback and tell them how they can give you the best possible service.

How do you solve a problem?
It is usually a good idea to solve one problem at a time. Write down the problem and what you would like to happen so you can start planning how to solve the issue. Ask yourself:

  • What is the problem?
  • How do I feel when the problem happens?
  • Why do I feel that way when the problem happens?
  • Who is causing the problem?
  • When does the problem happen the most?
  • Where does the problem happen the most?
  • What do I want to happen?
  • What do I need to change?
  • Who is the best person to speak to?

It’s all part of the work you need to do to solve your problem. Be confident that you have worked hard to solve the problem when you speak to others. The more decisions you make for yourself the more things you will learn you can do and the better you will feel about yourself.

Be confident
Sometimes you may need to be a little more assertive to solve your problem. This does not mean you should behave badly. Respectful speaking and listening and the knowing of your rights gives you the confidence and understanding to be firm as you work to solve your problem.
Support networks can help
It is important that the person you choose to support you does not speak for you. They should let you decide what you want to do. They are there to give you encouragement and to assist as you talk about how you are feeling and how you are going to solve your problem. They can help with letter writing or speak in meetings if you need assistance.
Information will be needed
Be prepared. It is important you gather as much information, including documentation, as you can about your problem. Know your rights and responsibilities.
Come up with a solution
Think about a few different ways to solve your problem. One will seem best to you, but others may also be okay. Talk about them with your support person. Plan how you will reach the solution. Will it be a chat, a telephone call, a letter or a meeting? Practice with your support person.
Speaking up
You are prepared with your documents and you have arranged to speak with the person. During the call or meeting it is important to control your emotions. Stay relaxed so the discussion remains respectful.

It is important that you understand what others are saying. Ask questions and repeat what you hear to make sure it is correct. Write down, or have someone else write down what is said by each person so you can remember later. This information can support your case.

You may need to negotiate if the change you want is not the same as the thoughts of the other person. Remember to firmly ask for what you want so that you can work together to find a solution for both of you. It may not be exactly what you hoped for, but it is acceptable to you.

If an agreement is not made, you have the right to ask to speak to more senior people in the organization, ask someone to advocate for you, or make a formal complaint, according to each agency’s complaints process.

You also have the right to inform your local member of parliament or a cabinet minister.

If an agreement is made, send a letter outlining what was agreed upon.

Writing a letter
Always show respect to the people you are speaking up to. Thank people who are helping you solve the problem. A letter can be sent to do this. You may want to have someone assist you, or show someone the letter you write on your own before it is mailed.

A problem solving letter should include the reason you are writing and what the problem is, why the problem needs solved, the solution you have decided would be best and a thank you for their help.

A thank you letter should include what has happened and a thank you to the person who supported the change.
You can learn more and complete self-advocacy training exercises by clicking here. NEED LINK

Community Self Advocacy

Self-advocacy is not only for individuals, but also for communities. Catulpa envisions a future where the people we serve are recognized and valued as contributing members of their community and are fully integrated into the activities of their communities.

We know this is a vision shared by the many children, youth, adults and families with developmental or mental disabilities. As individuals, agencies and governments, we must work together to face the growing need for inclusive supports and services within our communities.

By advocating for better resources and funding for each child and family, we can make a difference. To help advocate more effectively, we have developed some community self-advocacy tips.

No matter how you choose to advocate it’s important to follow some simple guidelines.

  • Be polite and reasonable
  • Be consistent when speaking about your issue. Keep it as simple as possible
  • Stay informed about changes to your issue
  • Be clear about your objectives and the need for a commitment, as well as desired next steps
  • Connect with others interested in your issue. Not only does this provide you support, together you can be more effective
  • Follow up regularly with decision makers so they know you are engaged and committed

There are several different ways you can choose to raise awareness about your issue. Some of them are:

  • A personal letter from you, your support group, or larger community network to local, provincial or federal politicians detailing your story and how the issue(s) affects you can be very impactful
  • Talk with local, provincial or federal politicians. Phoning or meeting can have an impact, especially if they are not familiar with your issue
  • Start an online petition and present it to decision makers, showing the issue is a concern to many
  • Post your story online. Social media sharing can reach a large number of people
  • Tell your story to community groups so they become engaged with your issue
  • Contact the media and provide them with your personal story and how the issue affects you or your family. Include facts and statistics they can use as background

Useful Links:

Facts and Statistics: Statistics Canada

Canadian Federal Government Representatives

Ontario Provincial Government Representatives

Ontario Municipal Government Representatives

Download the Self Advocacy Manual here.