What it Means to be a Self-Advocate

Jordan and his friend smiling outside of his apartment

Self-advocacy is a term thrown out there a lot in the disability space. But what does it actually mean to be a self-advocate? Well at the most basic level, being a self-advocate means speaking for yourself and what is important to you. It means you have a voice of your own, and you use it.

Everyone can be a self-advocate, but for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, becoming a self-advocate is even more important. Katherine Owen and Jackie Downer, professors at the University of Hertfordshire, define self-advocacy in this way:

Self-advocacy, or having a voice of your own, is fundamental to both asserting yourself and exploring yourself. This is important because it is directly linked to building confidence and self-esteem. It is important to have the possibility of talking about your life and your experiences so that who you are can be validated by others. In this way having a voice of your own has the power to construct your identity.

Katherine Owen and Jackie Downer, University of Hertfordshire

As the authors state, having a self-advocacy mindset can be instrumental in helping people with disabilities develop confidence, self-esteem and pride in their own unique identity.

Meet Jordan – A fierce advocate for people with disabilities

Jordan’s childhood was often marked by being teased for his intellectual disability. “I have actually been teased growing up, because people didn’t know how to deal with it,” Jordan recalls. “It made me feel bad.” But today, Jordan is an independent man and the definition of a self-advocate. But make no mistake: Jordan doesn’t just advocate for himself. Jordan is a fierce advocate for the entire disability community. “I’m proud of my disability community and being a part of it.”