Though the concept of self-advocacy for people with developmental disabilities has been growing for over 40 years, it is clear that many issues remain as people with disabilities and their allies look to the future of self-advocacy in Minnesota. A self-advocacy environmental scan conducted in the spring of 2005 consisted of interviews with 47 self-advocates (people with developmental disabilities) and professionals. The results of the environmental scan were conclusive.
“Funding is the number one issue…there is no institutional source of funding!” was the key issue identified in the scan. The fact that there is no systemic form of funding or resources to develop an infrastructure to support self-advocacy was identified over and over as problematic to not only the growth of self-advocacy but the current ability to sustain self-advocacy in Minnesota.
The basic lack of funding, according to many of those interviewed, continues to have its roots in the lack of visibility of self-advocacy and the deep discrimination that continues to exist, especially around people who carry the label of Developmental Disability. “Many people with disabilities feel somewhat ashamed, depressed, ridiculed, and feel they are humiliated. People are limited in how they view us.” While many believed there is lip service to include people who carry the Developmental Disability label, they were clear that discrimination plays a key role in lack of visibility, thus lack of a sustained effort to champion self-advocacy.
Another key issue that emerged from the environmental scan was the lack of understanding of the current structure of self-advocacy. Though it was believed, especially by self-advocates, that self-advocacy has grown (as attested to by the rise in conference attendance), there remains a general consensus that the efforts toward a self-advocacy movement are sporadic and divided. “There is no state structure, no region structure, not money structure, not state-wide leadership structure, no office structure, no issue campaign structure.” While the efforts of individual groups were clearly identified, the overall consensus was that there is little in place on a broader level that unifies self-advocacy.
A Minnesota state team was established in September of 2004 to bring issues of critical importance in our state to a national meeting in Washington DC one year later. Minnesota identified lack of support for self-advocacy as a critical issue. The results of the scan will be used to launch efforts to strengthen the support of self-advocacy in Minnesota.
The Self-Advocacy Environmental Scan was conducted by Susan O’Connor, PhD and summarized here by Mary Kay Kennedy of Advocating Change Together. Call Mary Kay Kennedy at 651-641-0297 for a copy of the environmental scan in its entirety or to find out how to join the newly forming committee to address issues identified in the e-scan.