Feature Issue on Self-Advocacy for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities
Speaking Up for Myself, and Others
My life started with too many people saying what I could not do or accomplish.
So, let me tell you the story of how I became a member of YEL/Young Emerging Leaders and People First. It started about 13 years ago, when my family moved to Alabama. That is when my parents met Susan Ellis, a family advocate. My parents needed advocacy help in order to help me be included while in the school setting.
I began to attend People First meetings and was encouraged to become a member of YEL. I joined to become more of the leader of my own life and to encourage others to do the same. Now, I am helping new members to get involved.
Susan Ellis, left, met Erech Brown’s parents when they relocated to Alabama. He later joined Young Emerging Leaders.
It is important for me to speak up and advocate for my needs and the needs of all persons with disABILITIES. I have many dreams, and I want to achieve my goals. While achieving my goals, I hope to help other people to achieve theirs. I want to teach other self-advocates how to “Be a Believer.” That has become one of my favorite slogans. It came to me while attending a conference with Susan and many other YEL members.
One of the issues that is important to me is independence. I wanted to learn how to drive so I could become more independent, but I had to struggle to get my driver’s license. Sometimes I want help; but I do not want to become dependent on others. Another issue that is important to me is being considered for a job that is not just about taking out the trash, or cleaning a floor or a parking lot. I want others to see that I can and will do more than that. I want to lead my own life and not to have other people treat me like I cannot do more. I can be taught. I want to keep moving forward to lead my life.
By becoming a YEL member, I have learned to advocate for myself. I now speak up more often to ask for help if I need it, before I would stay quiet. I have become more sure about my needs and wants, and learned how to manage my bank account. I have also learned how to advocate for the kind of transportation I need. I have used electronic communication to arrange for a person to pick me up for meetings and events. Having transportation was and is important for me to lead my own life.
I have become a stronger advocate for others too. I have joined some state workgroups where we talk about things that are important to all people with disabilities, and I teach others how to write and send letters to state lawmakers in Montgomery. These letters ask for policies that will guarantee the rights for self-advocates in the future.