Personal Story

Feature Issue on Self-Advocacy for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

What Self-Advocacy Means to Me


Joe Meadours is an Advocacy Trainer and Board Mentor at People First of California. He lives in Citrus Heights, California, and may be reached at

My brother got me involved in the Self-Advocacy Movement in the 1990s, asking me to start a local People First chapter in Oklahoma. At first, I had mixed feelings because I didn’t know anything about it, but I eventually said I would try it. Almost 30 years later, I’m still involved in the Movement, working with People First of California. Self-advocacy lets me know I am able to speak what’s on my mind. I decide who I want in my life and they support me in good times and bad. My roommate supported me when I was sick, and I support him when he is sick. We tell each other, “It’s going to be alright, we’re going to get over this speed bump.” We care for each other and for other people. Doing all that in a group home would be much harder. It would feel like too many people are involved in your business. And it would be harder to have the kind of social life we have. The pandemic changed things, but until then we would go to ball games every week and we made friends with the people who work at the ballpark. My aunt asked me the other day what I miss most about life before all this, and the first thing I thought about were those games.

Illustration of self-advocate Joe Meadours, who is bald and has a short beard.