10 Steps to Effective Self-Advocacy
Ten Steps to Effective Self-Advocacy
1. Believe in Yourself
- You are worth it! You can do it!
2. Learn Your Rights
- You are entitled to equal rights under the law. Educate yourself with reliable information.
- Contact Disability Rights Florida to request information about your rights.
- Use libraries, the internet, e-mail groups, and social networking. Put yourself on mailing lists.
- If you need an accommodation, ask for it.
- Use peer-run, family and community support programs, referral or crisis hotlines, advocacy groups, and service providers.
- Attend classes or workshops.
- If you do not understand information or explanations provided, say so.
3. Discuss Your Questions and Concerns
- Prepare. Write an outline of your concerns. Write down your questions.
- Raise your questions and concerns by phone, in person, or by writing a letter. Use e-mail and on-line forms to start a conversation about your concerns.
- Schedule a meeting. Speaking to someone in person can be an effective way to advocate for yourself. Plan what you are going to say. Practice with friends, with a tape recorder, or even in front of the mirror. Dress for the occasion and be on time. You may bring someone along for support.
- Be polite. Introduce yourself and anyone with you. Learn and use other people’s names when you communicate. State your concerns clearly and simply. Ask politely for what you want.
- Listen carefully to the explanations and answers given. If you do not understand something, ask for clarification.
- Write down the name of each person you spoke with and their contact information.
- Send a follow up note listing your understanding of any agreements reached or next steps decided during the conversation or meeting. Keep a copy for your records.
4. Be Effective on the Phone
- Before you call, write down the key points you want to say and your most important questions. Stay calm and be polite. Keep your message clear and focused.
- Try to make your call in a place without distractions. If you must leave a voice message, keep it brief and make sure to include your name and a contact number where you will be available to accept a call.
- Be willing to listen. What you hear may be as important as what you say.
- Always get the name and position of the person you are talking to. Ask when he/she will get back to you or when you can expect action.
- If this person cannot help you, ask who can. Thank the person for being helpful.
- Keep a record of your call and follow up!
5. Put it in Writing
- Write a letter or send an e-mail about your request or concern. Provide information in writing. Keep it short and to the point. Begin and end your letter or e-mail by stating your request or concern.
- If you need others to become aware of the situation, you may send copies of your letter or e-mail to supervisors or advocacy groups.
- Only copy your letter or e-mail to people who can assist you. Be cautious with sharing confidential information.
- When you circulate a letter or e-mail to other people, put “cc” (carbon copies) at the bottom of the letter with a list of the people you sent copies. If you are sending an e-mail, list the names of other people in the “cc” line of the e-mail.
- In some instances, you may want to contact your legislators or include them in the people you copy with your letter or e-mail.
- Keep a copy for your records.
6. Get Information and Decisions in Writing
- If someone tells you something, ask them to put it in writing or send you documentation.
- If they tell you something is a law, policy or procedure, ask for a copy.
- If you disagree with a decision, ask for it in writing along with the reasons for the decision.
7. Use the Chain Of Command
- If you feel you are not getting a straight answer, thank the person for their time and ask to speak to someone else who can address your concerns.
- Use the organization’s chain of command to help you find the supervisor or other person you need to communicate with.
8. Know Your Appeal Rights and Responsibilities
- If you do not get a satisfactory decision, ask what you need to do next to resolve the dispute or appeal the decision. Most organizations and government agencies are required to have a process to review decisions.
- Request clear written information about the dispute resolution process and your right to appeal a decision you believe is wrong. Be sure you understand your responsibilities.
9. Follow Up and Say Thank You
- Keep track of key deadlines and time frames. Follow up.
- Remember to thank people along the way. Recognize those individuals that provided helpful information and good service.
10. Ask For Help
- If you need assistance resolving a dispute, contact Disability Rights Florida or another advocacy or community organization to request information or assistance.