Disability advocacy happens in many ways. Parents of children with disabilities become advocates although some may be reluctant to play that role. Others are professional advocates who are paid for their work. Some people with disabilities self-advocate in order to gain or maintain access. Some write about disability advocacy and educate others.
My view from the trenches often differs from others’ point of view. That’s not surprising because what I see is different than what many see. I bring with me certain information, experiences and knowledge that others may or may not have. Because of that I will sometimes advocate in different ways, depending on the situation.
I often engage the help of a group or organization in my advocacy efforts. Resources matter in the world of disability advocacy and should be respected and cultivated.
Sometimes I disagree with certain points of view held by such groups. That does not mean they are not valuable as a resource, nor does it mean that the members themselves, whether able bodied or disabled, are not people whom I respect. Quite the contrary. Even though we both are acting in the role of advocate, we may “agree to disagree” on certain issues because we may not be “like-minded” on certain points. Two people or groups can disagree on certain issues and neither is going to change position. What is good to recognize is that it doesn’t always mean someone is wrong.
I can tolerate this level of pluralism better than some, perhaps because I am used to dealing with conflict resolution on a daily basis. I can see the value of incorporating different points of view into my own worldview and do that quite frequently. I can also see and avoid when possible the temptation to conform to a lower expectation in a result that is achieved if issues get too “watered down” by some group processes. ( This is different than “preaching to the choir” because when people already “get it”, that approach is a waste of time and energy. ) But a group that cannot tolerate a pluralistic view and tries to impose conformity on the people who come in touch with it stymies its own growth and usefulness. In the end, this group behavior turns off people who could otherwise be valuable allies and partners.
In dealing with the myraid of issues involved in disability advocacy from the trenches, I simply cannot imagine how I could function as an effective advocate without realizing both the value of and the need for pluralism.
Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan