Having a disability is challenging. Being an advocate for disability inclusion can often be disillusioning. If you stay focused on what you want to achieve you can create positive change in your community.

If you have a disability or care for a person with a disability, it can be extremely difficult to avoid the emotional aspect of advocating for access and inclusion. In Australia legislation for disability inclusion and anti discrimination is still quite young and still developing. Older generations can be quite “old school” about it and mindsets have often been passed down through generations. With positive education and proactive communication we can retrain old school and improve new school of thought to create inclusive and accessible communities.

5 Steps to Successful Disability Advocacy

1. Educate yourself
In order to communicate your cause effectively it is important to understand as much of the legislation as possible. It is still quite difficult as it is ever changing and evolving, but knowing where and how to find information and to direct people to information is very important. Understanding what your rights and responsibilities are is also important to ensure you’re not demanding something that can’t be done.
2. Research real life engagement opportunities
It’s one thing to demand better enforcement of parking infringements but contacting your federal MP may not be the best place to start. Understanding which levels of government and which government departments are responsible for which legislations is necessary for effective communication and time saving. Community Cabinets are a great place to reach a number of relevant departments at one time. Attending community meetings, council meetings and talking to local community groups relevant to the cause is also a great way to create engagement opportunities.
3. Network
Connect with people who share your aspirations. Opportunities to exchange valuable ideas and experience will considerably expand your positive impact. Attending events, communicating through social media and presentations to groups are just a few ways you can start to spread the word of your advocacy activity.
4. Motive and engage others
As an advocate one of the most important skills you can acquire is the ability to engage and motivate members of your community to join your cause. If you can inspire others who aren’t even affected by it to join and help advocate for change then you have already achieved half your goal.
5. Overcome burnout
Don’t let emotions take over. Sometimes you need to take a break. Sometimes you need to walk away. You won’t be able to change everyone but if you can change general attitude to make exclusion socially unacceptable you have the upper hand. You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to. Save your energy and choose your battles.

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