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Canadians with Disabilities Put Self-advocacy In Action

August 11, 2014
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Canadians with Disabilities Put Self-advocacy In ActionThroughout the 20th century and into the new millennium, tremendous strides have been made in disability advocacy. Still, discrimination towards people with disabilities exists today.

Isn’t it discouraging to be declined services and benefits based on how others perceive your ability level? In times such as this, it is necessary that you know how to be an advocate for yourself.

What is Self-advocacy?

Advocating for yourself is the number one tool you have to reach for your dreams and achieve your goals. As a person with disabilities, you may experience “closed doors” throughout life. Learning how to be a self-advocate is a way to open these doors (or kick them down if necessary).

Oxford dictionaries define self-advocacy as “The action of representing oneself or one’s views or interests.” The Pacer Center, a U.S. nonprofit that supports parents who advocate for their children, defines self-advocacy by saying this:

Being your own advocate means that you ask for what you need while respecting the needs of others… Self-advocacy is asking for what you need in a direct, respectful manner.

Self-advocacy Leads to Accommodation

People who do not live with disabilities are often unaware of how to best accommodate people with physical and mental challenges. However, proper accommodations are essential for people with disabilities to adapt and function in the world. Therefore, it is often the responsibility of the person with a disability to speak up for his or her personal needs and the needs of the disability community at large. Sometimes, people are unaware that they are prohibiting the inclusion of people with disabilities and are happy to accommodate everyone best they can.

Self-advocacy in Action

Having a disability does not define you. In fact, living with a physical or mental impairment may mean you have a heightened sense of acuity in another skillset. Leveraging your strengths can be the best way to gain credibility and plead an effective case for accommodation.

Here are a few personal tools that every self-advocate needs:

Knowledge – Have you heard the phrase, “Knowledge is power”? This is especially true in the case of disability advocacy. You need to know a lot about yourself, the disability diagnosis or diagnoses you have, and ways people can best accommodate you and those like you.

Communication – The more you know about your disability, the better you can communicate its effects and limitations to others. For those who have the ability to communicate through common language, having a conversation about your disability may entail these steps:

1. Recognize the action, situation or barrier that contradicts your ability. Be sure you can succinctly identify the reason why this conflicts with your physical or mental capacities.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may say, “At the mall, there is no button to open the door automatically. It will be hard for me to open the door while rolling myself inside.”

2. Locate the person, people, or organization who can remedy this problem.

Perhaps mall offices have a manager whom you can speak with. To find out who this person might be, ask the information desk or write a letter to the administration.

3. Ask for proper accommodation.

In a written letter or face-to-face conversation, express how the absence of an automatic door button prohibits you from entering the mall easily. Then, ask that they install this type of button at each entrance.

When advocating for yourself, it is wise to give the other person or people benefit of the doubt. Graciously accept that they do not know what barriers you face each and every day. Self-advocates take it upon themselves to educate others and, in effect, empower the disability community by understanding their disabilities, informing others of their abilities and requesting that their needs be fulfilled.

Self-advocacy is important for every person, especially those with disabilities. How have you advocated for yourself recently?

 

10 Comments. Leave new

I find it hard to advocate for myself because I (personally) have a brain injury that affects my way of thinking. Therefore,,, I would need someone to advocate for me. Unfortunately I have no choice on that.

joepsh richard doucet
August 15, 2014 10:22 pm

i have been having trouble finding s gp and getting my meds paid for with my coverage provider, especially i know people who have the same plann ans i but they have no trouble getting their meds paid for. also, i’ve seen 5 doctors in the last 2 months that is suppose to be taking new patients but when they see me and find out i am disability they don’t want to take me on as a patient. some clinics won’t even give you a appt to see a doctor because you are on disability. i have still to complain about the chand clinic in surrey to the board for discrimination. back to the medication problem of being paid for i can get them paid for but i need a gp too call and tell them i need the meds but with out a gp i been paying for them for the last 4 months. that some of the problems that i am experiencing at this point. i haven’t even gone into my problems with my pysical health and stress that this all cause me but another day.

I have tried many times to advocate for myself. This just made my situation worse, so that, anywhere I go in Alberta, the provincial NetCare system has labelled me, falsely and treats me horribly. My husband spent thousands for me to get help in the U.S. Because once labelled, the healthcare system in Alberta will not take complaints seriously. I even went to Open Arms advocacy group and they were less than helpful. The only way to make change is to find a lawyer who is not afraid to take on the government and make them pay for the injustice and un-necessary pain and suffering people like myself have gone through. I cannot speak for the whole of Canada, but in Alberta, individuals with disabilities are labelled as “Chronic” and therefore treated like a parasite sucking the life out of the health system. The government does not support the doctors, so in turn, the doctors could care less about patients. If you wish to know more details of my story, let me know. If it helps another person great. As I said, we need lawyers not advocates.
Chandra

Discrimination does exist no one wants to hire you with a disability. Mine is permanently etched in x-rays and CAT Scans the osteoporosis has affected C1-C7 and L1-S1 exclusive proven scoliosis and degenerative disk disease of my spine. It started at a young age of 42, but then it affected my own mother at the young age of 39 in a full hip replacement. This silent disease can affect anyone. I knew I had to make a career change before I become wheel-chair bound from heavy lifting in manufacturing. Here is my journey today now I am able to work at home which allows me to get up off a chair and to move around. I work in retail and stay active as much as I can. There are days I just lose the ability to cope with arthritic pain but I kick myself to get going. Family members too have stopped feeling sorry for me as per my request and motivate me to get moving. I basically have to lie about my disability to get a job, but what Employers do not know and should know is that there are incentives for hiring people with disabilities from the government too.

jacie hamalainen
August 16, 2014 5:08 am

I find it frustrating in so many ways when you want to be independant and the stores have no way for us to get up with out curbs in our way, and lack of changing rooms so we can get our chairs in. Store owners remember we are shoppers too you are supposed to cater to everyone an that includes us! We are not nobody’s we are people that have unfortunate things that have happened to us, make things a bit easier so we can do the things we are used to doing with out barriers coming up against us..:)

Jill Owen-Flood
August 16, 2014 5:10 pm

Chandra is correct, the disabled need lawyers to fight the injustices forced on the disabled by the government; but, most persons with disabilities cannot afford lawyers. Most injustices forced on Canadians with Disabilities by the federal and provincial governments constitute violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. However, because the way the Charter is written, there are no realistically enforceable means for the financially disadvantaged to enforce the Charter. The Charter is rich in sections to protect the guilty but very little to protect victims.

The home housing society housing first program with boil maccauley group was and still is a very good program. You need referal to the program, it helps assist people with housing issues as well as mental health issues.

I have been an advocate for my Daughter since she has been diagnosed with 2 Auto-immune disorders, CSS (Churg Strauss Syndrome with Vasculitis) and Graves disease (Thyroid disease), and now Intracranial Hydracyphilitis (CSF fluid on the brain). Among other health issues, I battle with Dr.’s daily as my daughter cannot be an advocate for herself due to her health problems, the battle with Health Care Providers is ongoing and seems that if you are your only advocate you will have a battle on your hands. Tired of the health care system, it seems that the doctors only care about their vacations and not the patients…as I thought their oath would be. Good luck.

I fought for 2 years in 2001/1 for disability and was unable to acquire a lawyer due to lack of finances. I was turned down because I wasn’t sick enough / not close enough to death. I was fighting several prolonged chronic illnesses.
I had an accident in 2012 where I broke my back and had surgery that was not entirely helpful and made my sciatica so severe that I can barely function.
Applied for disability 2013/14 and was declined once again. So now I have to fight again for disability. This is what I am dealing with but still not sick enough (chronic depression, panic & anxiety, panic and anxiety disorder,sponylolithesis, spondylosis, fibromyalgia, I.B.S, tri- geminal neuralgia, osteoarthritis Scans/ back & hips, bone spurs in spine, osteoporosis, T.M.J, carpal tunnel, recurrent pancreatitis etc.
Due to osteoporosis I have all ready had a compression fracture and numerous cracked & broken ribs.
It is so frustrating and I don’t understand how I can’t qualify for disability? I have tried desperately to work but unable to keep a job because of too many absentessim / sick days!
There are individuals out their who are in better shape then myself but some how qualify. How sick / how many things does a person need to qualify?
My illnesses have been prolonged and prevent me from working and has effected my quality of life.

I WANT AND NEED THIS STORY TO GET OUT AND THE SOCIAL MEDIA IT DESERVES AS I HAVE FRIENDS ALL OVER THE WORLD BUT IN NANAIMO…TOO BAD THIS MACHINE GIVES ME A HEADACHE…THESE BOGUS ASSAULT CHARGES, I WAS TOLD I WOULD BE LET OUT OF JAIL IN 1 HOUR AND I WAS HELD AGAINST MY WILL FOR 16 HOURS ASKED IF I WANTED A LAWYER IN RCMP OFFICE I SAID NO BECAUSE OF MY INADEQUATE DISABILITY PENSION COULD NOT AFFORD A LAWYER. I LIKE HOW THE RCMP LIED TO ME ….MY ROTATER CUFF WAS TORN AS I WAS BEING ARRESTED ON MY FRONT LAWN AND MY CANES GRABBED FROM ME…LOOKING FOR A LAWYER ON A CONTINGENCY BASIS TO FILE A CRIMINAL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE STATE. AND NO I DO NOT HAVE A HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS….THIS IS SO RIDICULOUS…DON’T PICK ON THE SICK IT IS BAD KARMA AND I AM NOT STUPID…NOTHING LIKE WHITE COLLAR SOCIOPATHS AND POLITICAL HILLBILLY INBREDS RUNNING THE SHOW HERE.I FEEL LIKE I AM TRAPPED IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1960’S B&W TV SHOW). REALLY WHAT PLANET ARE THESE PEOPLE ON?

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