Self-Advocacy Basics

Self-Advocacy Basics is an entry level course with twelve one-hour sessions to help your group members:

  • build personal power,
  • learn about the rights movement for disability equality and how it applies to them, and
  • act together to contribute to the community.

These participatory, fun exercises build your members’ identity as “self-advocates.”

Self-Advocacy Basics

Session: 1
Title: Say Names Together

Description: A fun warm-up energizer, where groups form a circle and play various games saying each other’s names

–To make everyone feel welcome and seen as part of the group
–Build bonds between group members
–Put people at ease


Session 1b
Title: Would You Rather

Description: Energizer to playfully consider your values and priorities, compare them with the values of other group members

–a simple way to get people practice talking about what they think, and why
–practice making decisions
–see how my choices might be the same or different from others


Session: 1c
Title: Values Collage

Description: Each participant makes a collage, using their own photo and a variety of art supplies to show their values.

–Participants show what’s important to them using art
–Participants consider how those values can help them in daily life


Session: 2
Title: Assertiveness Training

Description: Volunteers take turns role-playing simple situations three times: once passively, once aggressively, and once assertively.

–Understand the difference between communicating passively, aggressively, and assertively.
–Experience which communication method is most effective


Session: 3a
Title: Showing Confidence

Description: In pairs, participants take turns telling what they’re good at and responding to questions. Then the group lists telltale signs of confidence.

–To provide a chance for participants to practice acting self-confident and believing in themselves.


Session: 3b
Title: Real Leaders Ask for Help

Description: Participants practice the skill of asking for help, and knowing who to ask.

–Build the skill of asking for help
–Participants are comfortable assertively naming what help they need
–Participants also see themselves as people with something to give
–Participants broaden their understanding of where to go for help


Session: 4
Title: Open Mic

Description: Participants practice speaking out and self-confidence by
telling what’s on their mind using an open mic format, with

–Build the skill and confidence of speaking out
–Have fun together, build group support
–Build better communities


Session: 5a
Title: Three Laws

Description: Learn about the three major disability rights laws, and tell/show how these laws affect your community.

–Participants learn about disability laws.
–Participants tell/show how these laws impact their lives.


Session: 5b
Title: You Be the Judge

Description: Read aloud a series of scenarios describing a situation. Self-advocates take turns deciding if something’s illegal, why and how to fix it.

–Participants begin to discern when disability rights are being violated and how to change the situations to make them legal.


Session: 6a
Title: History Snapshots

Description: Small groups examine cards with pictures and facts from the history of Western society and tell the large group what these cards show about disability in the past.

Participants learn:
–rights laws exist because ordinary people pushed for them
–there was a time when people did not have rights
–we are a part of history — we can make new rights


Session: 6b
Title: Everyone Can Be Great

Description: Group recites together a quote from Martin Luther King, with some people doing solo lines, and the large group repeating one phrase as a “chorus.”

–Reinforce central message of self-advocacy, that we all have something important to contribute.
–Practice telling others about our values.


Session: 7a
Title: What Is Power

Description: Simple demonstrations with a few volunteers show different kinds of power, while others watch and discuss.

–Participants understand the types of power and can see examples in their lives


Session: 7b
Title: Human Rights Power

Description: Participants hear and feel the power of human rights read aloud, then draw pictures which will remind themselves of what it feels like to be full of power.

–Participants experience power from within based on knowing their own human rights.


Session: 8
Title: Laws in Action (Field Trip)

Description: Using a checklist, group splits into two teams who compete for which team can go out and find the most examples of how disability laws have influenced the community.

–Participants learn how laws have changed their community.


Session: 9a
Title: Who Are You Connected To?

Description: Participants get to know their community connections by completing a bubble diagram, sharing results, and consider the power of these connections.

–Build awareness of your deep connections to the wider community
–Participants learn new things about each other, and how we can help each other


Session: 9b
Title: Go Find Out

Description: Participants practice gathering information on an issue and reporting their findings back to the group.

–Participants will gain experience in collecting information and identifying community needs.


Session: 10
Title: Who are the leaders?

Description: Participants first notice and name the qualities that established leaders possess, and then think about how they themselves carry these same qualities.

–To recognize leadership qualities in ourselves and in other group members
–How my leadership can help the community


Session: 11
Title: The Power of Many Hands (Field Trip)

Description: Group members all go together to a neighborhood event or
organization to help out as volunteers for a couple hours.

–Participants experience the pride and power of helping others.


Session: 12
Title: Review and Celebrate Our Achievement

Description: Closing ceremony to review the new learnings and to recognize graduates with ritual and certificates.

–Mark the completion of this 12-session course with a ceremony presenting certificates
–Raise community awareness of what we are doing