Self-Advocacy is one of the most important ways in which people with intellectual disabilities have a voice of their own. The words of Jackie Downer, a self-advocate, encapsulate all that self-advocacy has the potential to be. Her words emphasize that having a voice of your own is immensely personal and therefore is important to different people for different reasons. Through her words, the importance of people with intellectual disabilities having a voice of their own, is emphasized.
In explaining self-advocacy, Jackie says, “Broken down it means ‘speaking for yourself’, ‘communicating in other ways’, but it’s personal. For me it means that I can speak for myself. It means I’ve got a voice and even without a voice I can communicate in other ways. It means yes and no- most important- ‘No, I don’t want tea, I want coffee, I don’t want sugar’- all the things we take for granted. It means people must listen to me, I can take a risk, I can have a relationship, that can be hard. I can think for myself, I can go to the shop with support and if I need help, people can help me….” (Jackie Downer in Goodley 2000:81).
‘Speaking for yourself’
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.