• The self advocacy movement began in Sweden during the late 1960’s.  People with intellectual disabilities were supported to form and lead their own leisure clubs.  National conferences for the members of these clubs were held in 1968 and 1970, and the participants developed statements about how they wanted to be treated.
  •  In 1972, the idea spread to Great Britain, Canada and the United States.  In reaction to the control by professionals in the field of community living, individuals with intellectual disabilities formed self advocacy groups.  In Oregon, U.S., they formed a group called “People First” because they felt that their disabilities were secondary to their being a person first and foremost.  From there, the idea of self advocacy spread across North America.
  • Self advocacy means that individually or in groups, people with intellectual disabilities speak or act on behalf of themselves or others or on behalf of issues that affect them directly.
  • By 1991 in the U.S., the efforts of self advocates led to the national organization called Self Advocates Being Empowered (S.A.B.E.) which is a national coalition of state and local self advocacy organizations governed by a Steering Committee made up of 16 self advocate representatives from all over the country.
  • By 1976 in Canada, the first self advocates were being elected to their local Associations for Community Living to give them a voice on how services need to be delivered in a respectful way that also meets their needs. The International Year of the Disabled proclaimed by the United Nations in 1981 gave a boost to the self advocacy movement across the country.  The provincial association then known as the BC Association for the Mentally Retarded (BCAMR) supported the self advocates by providing them with a platform to speak up in a strong united voice on important issues that included dealing with government.
  • During the 1980’s in British Columbia, there was a large community coalition of self advocates, family members and service providers who wanted to close the institutions for people with intellectual disabilities.  The goal was to have all the individuals who had been segregated for many years released so they could live in the community with the required supports to give them a dignified life.   In 1984, the large institution called Tranquille was closed.  Self advocates from the institutions told the media and the public their personal stories of abuse that occurred in the institution.
  • After the closure of Tranquille, the provincial government committed itself to joining the community coalition to close all the large institutions that kept people with intellectual disabilities away from the community.  By October 1996, the institutions called Glendale and Woodlands were both finally closed.  Self advocates who left the institutions were now speaking up for themselves and joining self advocacy groups in their communities for support.  Many self advocates are now asked by government to participate on committees that set policy regarding their lives.
  • The self advocacy movement is a recognized movement that has grown out of and learned from the civil rights movement in the U.S. and the women’s equal rights movement internationally.  There are a lot of similarities in these movements because negative attitudes and practices have directly affected each of the respective groups and individuals.  These movements have led to changes in our society.  Today, people with intellectual disabilities have a stronger voice for themselves and others who have similar disabilities.  Today in BC, there are over 35 self advocacy groups around the province making BC the leader of the self advocacy movement in Canada.
  • In July 2000, the society called H.O.M.E.S. (Healthy Opportunities for Meaningful Experiences Society) sponsored the first Retreat at Edenvale for self advocate leaders in the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack, BC) which lead to the creation of the Fraser Valley Self Advocacy Network.  In November 2000, H.O.M.E.S. sponsored the second Edenvale Retreat for self advocates which led to the creation of this Website called www.SelfAdvocateNet.com.   Self advocates now have their own  Website. We are thankful for the Sponsorship of The HOME Society, CareNetBC, WestPro NGO and Cam Doré for co-ordinating the website.
  • The powerful lessons we have learned from the self advocacy movement go beyond the world of disabilities.  The concepts of plain language, inclusion, and community living are all borne out of the self advocacy movement.  The path to achieve those goals can teach all of us about learning to slow down in this fast-paced world and make sure that everyone is included along the way and treated with respect.  The self advocacy movement is still growing and is committed to closing all segregated environments so that everyone is included in their community.