Karen’s Adventures as a self advocate
Recently Karen enrolled on ‘Partners in Policy Making’ which is an internationally recognised leadership course for both disabled advocates and parents or guardians of children with disabilities. Over the next few months she will be blogging about the course and her experiences on it. Here is episode number 1:
I enrolled on the course to get a better understanding of how different decisions affect people with disabilities and their families. And think as well that if you know more about the rationale for some of the challenges that people are facing then you feel less like you’re just fighting and more like you are equipped to have discussions with professionals. And this means you won’t feel so isolated i.e. you’re not the only disabled person in the world.
We started by everyone (and there were 35 of us!) getting to know each other – this took quite a bit of time as you can imagine! Then we moved on to what had brought us all here. There were varied experiences in the room. Then we looked at the social model vs the medical model and why self-advocates need to see how things have changed to give a bit of perspective.
We looked at some activists who have worked in other countries to promote equal rights for people with disabilities. One of these was Ed Roberts who was the champion for integrated living in the States, where the programme originated.
We also heard personal stories from previous graduates about how they had used the course to go on and improve things for their own situation and also have a wider impact on disabled people. Over the weekend there were also exercises looking at how the media and campaigns around disability and charity have changed. I found this really useful giving me context about times when disabled people were viewed as objects of charity and sympathy.
Sometimes you get a bit lost doing your job, but when you stop and think about it you can see how get2gether are part of changing these perceptions from the inside! We’re working to turn these ideas on their head and to see disabled people as contributing to their own lives and success rather than relying upon other people to do it for them.
A big part of the first session was about having the confidence to recognise some of your own challenges and how you overcome them by looking at skills, resources, talents, and gifts.
This is in the hope that once you see this in yourself, you will be able to move forward positively to make change – not only for yourself but for others too.
Together, if you are all coming from the same understanding, and not being so insular and feeling like you are the only person going through something, then you can develop a collective positive voice and people are more likely to listen when you call for change. If you join together then you find that your journeys may be different, but your issues are often the same.