Being Your Own Advocate


As you develop a better understanding of who you are you will develop the skills to look after your own interests — or advocate for yourself.  Here are 14 ways you can do this:

  1. Know and understand your rights and responsibilities
  2. Practice asking questions when you don’t understand. Some good sentence starters are: "I'm curious about.." "Can I check something out with you? Can you tell me about..." "I got lost when we..... can you help me from there?"
  3. Repeat a question until it is satisfactorily answered. If you rephrase your questions sometimes it makes it easier for other to understand what you want. Identify what you do know and what you need to know.
  4. Keep written copies of all communications about your education.
  5. Request copies of all records and documentation including your grades, term reports etc.
  6. Remember that you are an equal partner in your education so you have to take responsibility for getting what you need.
  7. Let people know that you intend to resolve issues, not just complain about things.
  8. Learn all you can about your needs, strengths and weaknesses or disability if you have one so you can explain these to others in a conversational way and identify what works for you in a learning situation. This is helpful to your instructors and tutors.
  9. Be realistic about academic goals and physical abilities.
  10. Know what resources are available and use them. You can find these out by attending orientations or visiting different student services and departments such as the Libraries and Learning Centres, Counselling, Accessibility Services, Educational Advisors, Student Awards and Financial Aid.
  11. Know who the key people are who deal with the issues or concerns you may have. Find the right person to talk to and try all avenues to raise the issue and get your needs met.
  12. Thank people who help you for their time and effort.
  13. Be ready to educate others about your disability - beyond just describing what your needs are.
  14. Be open to questions.

Adapted from the Excerpt:

Merrilat, A., Reid, T., Bordewick, J., Keenlyside, W., & Coomber, S. (1999). Access Handbook for Students with Disabilities. Kwantlen College