What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is about advocating for yourself, instead of someone else (like an advocate) speaking for you. The self-advocacy movement is a grassroots, civil rights movement including its associations and groups.

"…independent groups of people with disabilities working together for justice by helping each other take charge of our lives and fight discrimination. Self-advocacy teaches us how to make choices and important decisions that help us to live our lives and be more independent. It teaches us about our rights and our responsibilities. We learn about advocating for ourselves by supporting each other and helping each other to gain confidence to speak out for what we believe in (SABE 1991)."

A Short History of the Self-Advocacy Movement

In 1968 a Swedish parent organization held a meeting for people with developmental disabilities. The people at the meeting made a list of changes they wanted made to their services. Over the next five years meetings like this took place all over England and Canada.

People First

In 1973 former residents of the state institution Fairview Training Center of Oregon, started meeting. During a meeting one person talked about being labeled “mentally retarded” and said, “I want to be known as a person first!” “People First” was chosen as the name of the convention. The expression, “label jars, not people!” is often used in the movement to mark a rejection of professional labeling of people with disabilities.

Annual meetings of this group were held throughout the 1970's and 1980's. Within five years, Oregon had 1000 members in self-advocacy groups, three different states had a growing membership, and people from 42 other states were asking for help to start similar groups. The right of people with developmental disabilities to have a voice in how they like to live their lives was becoming increasingly recognized.

Many self-advocacy groups call themselves People First, but self-advocacy groups have other names like The Self-Advocacy Network, Advocating Change Together, and Speaking for Ourselves. They are all part of the same self-advocacy movement.

Today, the self-advocacy movement, as it has come to be known, has grown into an international movement in 43 countries, with an estimated 17,000 members-plus. In the United States alone, there are well over 800 self-advocacy groups.

Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered

Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) is the United States' national self-advocacy organization. It was formed in 1991 and describes itself as an "active organization that is like a family." It has 18 elected board members who meet four times a year in different cities. Some of the things the board does to advance the self-advocacy movement include:

  • Advocacy Action keeping members up to date of advocacy opportunities
  • The Campaign for Freedom - working to push for closing institutions
  • Self-Advocacy Development - supporting people who want to find out more about self-advocacy and start state organizations
  • Public Relations-putting out newsletters, membership information, making videos, and most recently a music CD.
  • Self-Direction

Do you want more Freedom to plan your life? Control over your Medicaid dollars? Support to become involved in your community? Responsibility for your choices and decisions?

My Voice My Choice

My Voice My Choise Logo

My Voice My Choice, the Medicaid Self-Directed Community Services option is available statewide. Adults with developmental disabilities who are eligible for the Developmental Disabilities Waiver can now choose to self-direct their services through the My Voice My Choice option.

Download My Voice My Choice Overview Booklet

Self-Directed Services Under the Aged and Disabled Waiver

People who are elderly and/or who have physical disabilities may also qualify for Medicaid waiver services. Delivery of these Personal Assistance Services (PAS) operates under a self-directed model.

SELF-DIRECTED SERVICES: Idaho's Aged and Disabled Waiver

Support Broker

Key to a self directed service system is the Support Broker. Support Brokers work directly for the individual with a disability, assisting the person develop and manage the supports they are self-directing. The Support Broker must provide supports in ways that are flexible, responsive, and controlled by the individual.

Support Broker Job Description

The Department of Health and Welfare offers training to qualified applicants.

For more information contact Cheryl Willard at Medicaid: 208-334-0985,

The Idaho Self-Advocate Leadership Network

Idaho Self-Advocate leadership Network website address: Self-Advocate Leadership Network Logo

Working to advance equality through growth, education, and advocacy by providing opportunities so individuals with disabilities may achieve their greatest unique potential.

700 W. State Street, Suite 119
Boise, Idaho 83702-5868
Phone: 1-208-334-2178 or 1-800-544-2433
Fax: 1-208-334-3417

Toby from Moscow - I would to live by myself because someday I might have to and I want to know what to do in case it happens. Melodie from Grangeville - I am always stuck at home because I can't drive. If I had control of money spent on services, I could pay someone to drive me. My dream job would be head secretary instead of just a helper. Error processing SSI file