Feature Issue on Self-Advocacy for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities
Our Dream Realized!
SABE’s Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center
Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) began in 1990 as the first national self-advocacy organization. Our dream is to strengthen the voice of the Self-Advocacy Movement. SABE advocates for equal opportunities and inclusion for people with disabilities. We advocate for people to live and work in their communities. We try to be the leading voice for policy issues that affect the lives of people with disabilities. During the last 30 years, SABE and state and local self-advocacy efforts led to closing institutions, improving voting access, increasing employment and fair wages, eliminating the use of the “R” word, and taking more control over our lives.
Change happened because we united and stood together. Even with this power, the Movement faced some big challenges that were keeping self-advocates away from working on public policy.
They included a lack of funding that we could count on for national, state and local groups; lack of support from state allies; and learning how to run a non-profit organization and hire the right talent to do so.
For 20 years, state self-advocacy groups partnered with Developmental Disabilities Network programs. SABE built a relationship with the Administration on Disabilities. As a result, nine regional self-advocacy summits were held from 2011 to 2013. This led to the federal government funding six regional Self-Advocacy Technical Assistance Centers. The Centers worked with 36 states to strengthen the Movement. The projects found new ways for self-advocates to support and teach each other. SABE’s project, which served states in the south, was called “Our Community Standing Strong.”
In 2016, the Administration on Disabilities put out a call for proposals to create a National Center on Self Advocacy. SABE proposed a center rooted in our long history of partnering with national, state, and regional self-advocacy groups. The proposal was funded for five years. Our dream came true when the Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center opened in September of 2016.
We try to be the leading voice for policy issues that affect the lives of people with disabilities.
What is SARTAC?
SARTAC's purpose is to strengthen the self-advocacy movement. We share the best ways to promote self-advocacy and tell the history of the Self-Advocacy Movement. We are a place to find tools and resources created by self-advocates, where others can learn how best to support self-advocates and their groups. We provide training and assistance to self-advocacy groups. We also have a goal of creating paid policy and leadership experiences for self-advocates.
How is SARTAC Organized?
SABE administers the Center and works with four partners: The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Institute for Human Development at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the Southwest Institute for Families and Children.
What have been our most important successes to date?
SARTAC has been successful in doing many important things during the last four years. Examples include developing a website with more than 300 online resources, and creating a Self-Advocacy Start Up Toolkit that includes information on coalition building, Medicaid, the federal budget, employment policy, and other topics. Plain-language resource guides and other technical assistance efforts reached all U.S. states and territories.
- Provided work experiences to 24 self-advocate fellows. Three fellows got new jobs after being a SARTAC fellow.
- Published a plain-language article, “Our Common History: Fighting for the Rights of People.” It appeared in the TASH Connections Newsletter.
- Recorded 15 video interviews of self-advocacy leaders and leaders from other movements, including the Civil Rights Movement.
- Coordinated the 2018 National Self-Advocacy Conference, hosted by People First organizations in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia. It was called “Disability Rights as Civil Rights,” and was held in Birmingham, Alabama, with more than 700 people attending. There were 98 best-practice workshops taught by self-advocates. A video history of our national self-advocacy conferences was produced.
- Partnered with the University of Minnesota to record 46 video stories. Self-advocates described what self-advocacy means and which issues impact their lives.
“This was amazing, because we still do not have a culture that helps us to think about diversity.”
What are people saying about SARTAC?
SARTAC hosted twice-weekly Zoom sessions, beginning in March, for self- advocates to connect during the pandemic. Participation has been very strong. Self-advocates are sharing information with each other on what is happening in their states. We are learning about ways to stay safe. Self-advocates shared that SARTAC has provided them with a connection to other self-advocates across the country:
“We are being left behind. The information that is given to us is in terminology we do not understand. Thanks to the SARTAC Zoom meetings, we know what is going on. We have a place to get answers to our questions.”
“Just wanted to thank you for the good info concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, very helpful.”
“I support people who experience developmental disabilities. This resource will help me explain COVID-19 in an easy-to-understand, accessible way.”
“My 30-year-old daughter has autism. We have often thought about guardianship but didn't want to take away her rights. I have never heard of Supported Decision-Making before. Thank you. This will really help us as we go forward.”
“Thanks for this tool. (A video on Supported Decision-Making by a SARTAC fellow). We have been sharing this with advocates and their families. This tool has aided us in providing vital information. This is very well done and greatly appreciated.”
“I'm a psychologist. I was searching for information to help people in my country. This was amazing, because we still do not have a culture that helps us to think about diversity. This was important information to pass to other people. At same time, I got information about how people in other countries live. Thanks!”
What is SARTAC’s Future?
SARTAC is entering its final year of funding, and we are beginning to have conversations with our funders, our allies, and our base about planning for its future. This center has proven it can provide help and information that no place else can during these uncertain and scary times. It is a place that self-advocates think is important. It is a place to share our skills, tools, and connect with each other. It is a place where issues can be talked about and understood. It truly provides self-advocates and their groups with knowledge and power to control their lives. SABE and all of our partners are committed to demonstrating the need for more funding to continue these important efforts.