By Darryl Harand (Kelowna, B.C.)
For those who don’t know who I am, I am Darryl Harrand. I’ve been a self-advocate since 1994. I led the local self-advocate group in Kelowna, BC, through Pathways Abilities Society for several years. Today, I want to talk about the rights and responsibilities of a self-advocate. The rights are: the right to be heard; the right to disagree; the right to confidentiality; and the right to independence. The responsibilities are: the responsibility of knowing your rights; what resources are available to you and knowing how to use them; the responsibility to be calm and polite; the responsibility of honouring your commitments; and the responsibility of respecting everyone. I understand that these may all sound the same, but I want to talk about them individually, so hopefully, the differences will be evident.
- Right to independence (e.g. in decision making).
– Independence looks different for everyone. People are entitled to it, but one person may need more help than another over their lifetime. For example, as I get older, I may need more help than I did, say 10 years ago. Life brings changes for everybody.
- Right to disagree.
– In work situations, you and a colleague may be involved in a situation where they may see it one way, and you may see it another. It doesn’t mean that they’re wrong, and it doesn’t mean that you are wrong. You both just see the situation differently, and sometimes it is okay to agree to disagree. To resolve this, strong and effective communication is very important.
- Right to be heard.
– The right to be heard is very important. So often I have come across people who have felt they weren’t heard. One self-advocate might say, “My parents aren’t getting it, I want to leave home.” But their parents might say, “You’re not ready to go.” I’ve had good experiences with various people, whether they are support workers or facilitators. After a lot of hard work and discussion, I have eventually been heard.
- Right to confidentiality.
– One of the ways to build strong relationships between self-advocates and others is the assurance that whatever they say will be treated confidentially. One thing I have learned is that if I don’t know if what I am being told is confidential, I assume that it is. Self-advocates want and count on confidentiality. It could be a deal-breaker in whatever relationship they are developing. I have known self-advocates to turn away from service providers when they feel confidentiality has been violated, (whether it was or not).
- Responsibility to respect everyone.
– It’s important to live up to your responsibilities and your obligations. Always be professional and respectful, even when you might not feel like it. For example, I have sore ribs for various reasons and they hurt very much, but when I’m at a meeting of any kind or at work, I know I have to keep my discomfort from making me irritable. I always present in a respectful and courteous way.
- Responsibility of knowing your rights, what resources are available to you, and knowing how to use them.
– On a personal level, I found myself in a situation where it wasn’t clear to me what my rights were and I felt that I was being dismissed by certain individuals. But I knew that I could talk to the self-advocate advisor at CLBC, who was very helpful. She did her job, and with help I got my situation resolved. This is a good example of knowing what resources are available to you and knowing how to use them.
- Responsibility to be calm and polite.
– Even in stressful situations you must maintain your coolness and remain polite. It is important to maintain a professional image and to express courteousness and politeness. This will help you when dealing with the public at large.
- Responsibility to honour your commitments.
– Honour your commitments; show up on time for work and for your appointments. Another example is when you agree that you’re going to do something for your boss or for your job coach… follow up and do it! If anything comes up, like illness or other appointments that you cannot miss then inform the boss or job coach that you cannot make it with as much notice as possible.
To conclude, the main point is that self-advocates want equality and fairness. While self-advocacy is different for each individual, the message is the same. We want the same as the rest of the world. Nothing more and nothing less.
Profile for the Self-Advocate Net website: https://selfadvocatenet.com.To inquire about or hire Darryl, contact CLBC Self Advocate Advisor, Jessica Humphrey, Jessica.Humphrey@gov.bc.ca or 778-679-2691.