Frontline Initiative Choice, Direction, and Control

Information is power:
Self-Advocacy Online


John Smith is a coordinator at the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota. He is interested in making important information accessible to everyone. Find out more about the Research and Training Center on Community Living.

Headshot of John Smith

John Smith

Everyone knows that information is power! In order make good decisions and take greater control over their lives, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) deserve access to clear, understandable information that affirms their preferences and opens up new options. Self-Advocacy Online (SAO) is designed especially for people with IDD. It has lots of information aimed at helping people take greater control of their lives. It is presented in a way that is accessible and engaging. It was created by the Research and Training Center on Community Living with support from The Arc of the United States. All content is reviewed and edited by a panel of persons with IDD. When it’s approved, it is enhanced with media to bring the ideas to life. As you read this article, I invite you to go Self-Advocacy Online and see how this website might be helpful as you provide support.

Learn about Self-Advocacy

First, click on “Learn about Self-Advocacy”. SAO currently has eight online lessons. The topics are helpful for both people with IDD and DSPs. Each lesson has about 20 screens. It takes 5-10 minutes to complete. The lessons available now focus on health and wellness, speaking up, and getting organized to tackle the big issues that often hold back people with IDD. Click on a lesson that interests you! DSPs can use this part of SAO together with the people they support. They can explore interesting topics. All of the lessons have practical action steps DSPs could use. They can help people follow-up on what they have learned. We are always working on new lessons. We welcome suggestions for new topics.

View stories from Self-Advocates

Next, click on “View stories from Self-Advocates”. SAO has dozens of short, powerful video clips of self-advocates from all over the world. They talk about the issues they are passionate about. You can select from a list of topics that will narrow the videos to those that are most interesting. Topics from Olmstead to marriage, to working together and civil rights. You can find stories from self-advocates on so many topics! We suggest that DSPs watch some stories along with the people they support. People find these stories engaging and inspirational. You can encourage the people you support to think about the stories they would tell. In the near future, we will be able to add anyone’s story to SAO as long as it meets some simple standards. You can begin by helping the person you support to tell or write their story.

Carrie varner speaking in a video

Carrie Varner talks about work

Jeremy Beaver speaking in a video

Jeremy Beaver talks about relationships

Find Self-Advocacy groups

There is more on the website than this. Under “Find Self-Advocacy Groups” , we have information on more than 400 self-advocacy groups around the United States. If the people you support are members of a self-advocacy group, please check to make sure it is listed and the information is up-to-date.

Screenshot of the Self-Advocacy Online website with the menu item Find Self-Advocacy groups highlighted.

Self-Advocacy Online website

Research for all

Under “Research for All”, there is information from recent research translated into simple language. It is supplemented with media to be clear and easy-to-understand. The SAO homepage features a feed from our Facebook page. Our Facebook page is updated several times a week. It includes stories of the amazing and important things people with IDD are doing to make the world a better place. Self-Advocacy Online is growing and changing. We hope to hear from you about what is working, and what seems to be missing. Please explore. Please share it with the people you support. Finally, send us your ideas.