Becoming an Effective Self-Advocate

Julie Brock

What is Self-Advocacy

There are many times in our lives when self-advocacy is an important tool to use. When you are blind or visually impaired, you may need to hone your skills even more.

Self-advocacy is a lifelong skill which enables you to speak up for yourself and for your personal rights. Self-advocacy also means speaking out against personal discrimination. Becoming an effective self-advocate requires you to develop and nurture your existing skills and abilities, to build up your self-confidence, and to practice the critical skill of communicating effectively.

Effective communication means that you listen to others and respond appropriately as well as expressing what it is that you need. The ability to respond appropriately requires you to use your assertiveness skills instead of being aggressive or passive in your response. I spoke about this in a previous post on assertive and aggressive behavior.

Various Communication Tactics

Sometimes humor is a useful tactic in getting your point across while helping you avoid sounding too harsh and putting people on the defensive. At the same time, being straightforward will get your point across more clearly than “beating around the bush”. In expressing yourself, use tact and diplomacy. Showing respect for yourself and for others by being polite is usually the most effective approach.

Making a List

You may find it helpful to make a list of those skills you need to develop in yourself in order to be a better self-advocate. Make your list into an action plan by also listing the ways you will develop each needed skill. Here are some skill ideas to help you get started:

  • Self-confidence
  • Assertiveness
  • Humor
  • Directness
  • Diplomacy
  • Respect
  • Forcefulness
  • Tolerance

Trying It Out

As a part of your action plan, you might list scenarios you will try out in honing your skills. One scenario you might use is in securing transportation. Perhaps you need a ride to worship service each week. Consider approaching your congregation to ask for a ride. Or is there someone who attends your place of worship with whom you might find a ride. This scenario gives you a chance to practice several skills and to gauge your effectiveness. If you have a close friend in the congregation, you might consider letting he or she know you are practicing to be a better self-advocate and ask “How did I do?”.

Self-advocacy is a lifelong skill needed and used by all people. So, whether you are young, old, fully sighted or partially sighted, developing and using self-advocating skills will serve you well in living a fuller and happier life by getting what you need.