Frontline Initiative DSP Recognition

Creating Policy Change:
Recognizing the Partnership


Cliff Poetz is the Vice President of NADSP. He is a self-advocate and is actively involved in policy change at both the state and local levels.

Some of the most powerful policy changes happen when groups of people work together. For many years, I have envisioned direct support professionals (DSPs) and self-advocates combining their strengths to change public policy. In this article, I lay out my vision for creating these partnerships.

Most often, when DSPs attend advocacy days hosted by public policy organizations or attend meetings with officials at the local, state or national levels, their primary role is to support self-advocates in getting their voices heard. This is vital but I am asking DSPs to recognize that their role can be so much deeper— not only as a support person but also as a policy-changing partner. In addition to supporting self-advocates, I believe DSPs also need to get their voices heard: DSPs can tell what is happening right there on the frontlines. They can offer a unique perspective. Together, DSPs and self-advocates can share personal stories that put faces to larger public policy issues.

Agencies and national organizations also need to further recognize this unique partnership. Agency leaders can discuss advocacy issues with DSPs and Frontline Supervisors. For example, training could be implemented on how to stay informed through public policy e-mails alerts. Taking it one step further, agencies could also provide information about responding to e-mail alerts and why it is important to respond.

As a member of People First, I know that many self-advocates have significant advocacy experience and training that DSPs may not have had. I hope People First can bring advocacy training to DSPs. DSPs be prepared to share your story as well. Both stories can have twice the impact.

Agencies and national organizations can and do provide a number of other valuable resources. Organizations such as the Arc, ANCOR, NADSP and SABE have taken large steps to recognize and strengthen the policy partnership between DSPs and self-advocates. I challenge these organizations to push this partnership further by reaching out to DSPs and educating them in the policy issues. They can train DSPs on how to advocate not only for self-advocates but also for DSPs. Lastly, these organizations can work to bring DSPs and self-advocates together at the same policy change events and meetings.

By recognizing and acting on a partnership between DSPs and self-advocates, together we will be able to bring about significant change and better the lives of both DSPs and self-advocates. This is true recognition!