by Earl Gregson
My name is Earl Gregson. I am from Victoria, BC. I was raised in Vancouver, BC. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I work at the University of Victoria radio station, CFUV 101.9. I am a weather announcer and I play country music. I am legally visually impaired.
I started to consider myself a self-advocate in 2003. My friend told me about self advocacy and I wanted to learn more about my rights and how to stand up for them. I joined a group called Self Advocates For A Brighter Future where I met more people who believed in the same values. More than 30 of us meet every month to talk about issues and things that are important to us. We review our core values together and take turns reading them out. Our core values are:
- I am a person first.
- I speak for myself.
- I make my own decisions.
- My voice counts- listen to me.
- We’re stronger when we work together.
- Sometimes, we have to fight for our rights.
- My vote counts.
- We learn from making mistakes.
- If you want to know what I think, ask me!
- Self Advocacy is a civil rights movement.
At our meetings we talk about different things to improve life for people with disabilities. Anyone can be a self advocate. We work on issues like having more opportunities to vote (you absolutely stand up for your rights when you vote), public safety, knowing people you can trust, what to do if you are told you can’t join something in your community, transportation, road safety- like cross walks painted clearly and traffic lights that make noise for people who are visually impaired.
One issue that is especially important to me is people with disabilities getting paid jobs. We used to get paid for doing jobs in our programs, but that doesn’t happen anymore. So it’s really important that there are jobs out there for us. I’ve wanted a job since the program workshops stopped. Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I can’t have a paid job. A lot more money is needed for people with disabilities. I need to save for things like new clothes and trips to see my family. It’s hard not having a chance to save for things that are important to me. It’s a lot of pressure on me not to have enough money.
Self advocacy is important because you need to be able to show others what you want to see happen and what your feelings are about things. You have to learn to speak up and tell people how you feel otherwise no one will know and nothing will change. It feels good to be heard and listened to. It’s important to vote and to know who is out there improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Self advocacy is about educating others about how to treat each other with dignity and respect. It’s about teaching staff and caregivers and government. Treat people how you want to be treated. If the world understands each other better everyone will feel stronger and happier and smile more. And we are stronger when we work together because through self advocacy we meet new friends and have more people in our lives.