Most people have found themselves in a place of needing to advocate for a loved one. Add in the dynamic of a loved one with a disability and advocacy becomes a necessary skill.

This blog profiles two people’s perspectives who have skill in a variety of specific areas we can learn from.

Long Distance Advocacy

by Linda Youngs

Much of the advocacy I have done in the past 10 years has occurred from over 700 km away.  It has posed some challenges, but they were not insurmountable. Below are some of my thoughts.

  • When possible, have meetings face to face or through online platforms such as Zoom. There is distinct disadvantage when you are “faceless” and   unable to see others at meeting and it is easier to be depersonalized.
  • Be an “expert witness” on the issues you are advocating for. Know your facts and prepare notes prior to meeting so that you know what you want to say and how best to present the information in a concise fashion
  • Know background of your audience as much as possible- i.e., medical professionals, social worker, housing specialist, etc. and plan your approach accordingly
  • Rehearse how to state your key points and plan answers for potential responses from other parties.
  • Avoid becoming adversarial or argumentative. Often, it is not what you say, but how you say it that makes Advocacy successful
  • Stay calm and reasonable. Otherwise, it is easy to be labeled as “non-compliant or difficult to Serve”
  • Know your goals and stay focused.
  • Keep records of dates and details of meetings and refer to them.
  • Climb chain of command when you are not initially successful
  • Share some personal information so that the individual is viewed as a unique individual and not a problem.

Most professionals that we interact with entered that career because they want to help people. Life happens and they often get sidetracked with workload, company policies, financial restraints, etc.  We need to reach the part of them which brought them to this position in the first place.

I try to present my case in such a way that it is easier for people to agree than disagree!

These are just some of the things I have learned, and I hope they are of some help to others.

Advocacy Lessons Learned

by Alan Perks

Advocating for change in services and supports can be difficult and exhausting, but change is possible when your needs are well justified and concerns clearly stated. Case managers have defined limits to their roles, responsibilities and resources, and an effective advocate is one that understands these constraints, makes their request with polite persistence, and is prepared to escalate the discussion if necessary.

The Voices & Choices website includes a pamphlet with tips on how to prepare for meetings which can be helpful. In addition, other important lessons learned include:

  1. State and discuss your issues and need clearly, and in the context of the responsibilities and priorities of the agency as stated on its website.
  2. Believe that solutions can be found and keep the communications going until it is clear no progress is being made. Be persistent and polite and remember that “no” means “not right now”, but the situation can change quickly, or alternatives found.
  3. Be prepared to escalate the discussion to higher levels of the organization, and your municipal, provincial and federal representatives as appropriate. Ask others for help when needed. Use the Agency’s website to learn how it operates and look at it is organizational structure to see who reports to whom. Read the “Mission, Vision, and Values” statement the agency cites. Most will refer to: worth and dignity of all; openness, acceptance, & respect, make their own decisions; person centred care; community living; adaptability; and meeting every person’s needs. Use those terms in your advocacy work.
  4. Finally, remember that email is considered an unofficial form of communication that does not require a response. Formal letters and telephone communications do require a response.

Below are several sites that contain good advocacy tips and techniques.

2 thoughts on “Advocacy

  1. Very useful information. I need to keep these tips handy, particularly the stay calm one!

    Thank you.

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