>(cross posted to Disability Voices)
One of my friends asked me to give her some lessons in how to advocate for yourself. I don’t really consider myself an expert at that but I suppose I do speak up a lot and argue for my rights so I have got experience.
So here in no particular order are my advocacy tips:
Pick your battles. You can’t fight everything, because no one has the time and energy to do that. Really it depends a lot on what else is going on whether I let things go or not. I try to pick the things that make me the most mad, or which keep recurring, or which would make the biggest difference to me either in the long term or the short term. Sometimes I end up feeling bad that I’ve let something go but not often.
Stay calm. That can be quite hard to do but if you get angry all they will hear is the tone and anger in your voice and react to that. If you’re calm they actually have to respond to what your saying.
Be persistent. In one of my local supermarkets I’ve complained four or so times about not having wide aisle checkouts open, each a couple of months apart as I don’t shop their often. The last time I spoke to the checkout supervisor about that, she recognised me and commented that we’d spoken about it before.
Take it higher. That might be to their supervisor or the manager, or it might be in writing to the head office. With the supermarket complaint I spoke to the duty store managers a couple of times and then ended up writing to head office. There have been times when I’ve been the one that’s asked to speak to managers (and even times when I’ve started my complaint with “I’ve got a problem I want to talk to the manager”) and others when the staff member I’ve spoken to has simply responded “I’ll get my manager”
Don’t lose it with the person you’re speaking with. It’s not usually personal or their fault. Particularly not if they’re just a general staff member. And even if it is a personal thing, speaking with them may not achieve much. If you must lose it with someone, that’s a good time to speak to the manager, they can achieve more for you (via Sarah)
Accept that sometimes you won’t be successful. The response I had from the supermarket head office annoyed me as it seemed a bit like an attempt to placate me and not answer my points. But I let it go because I didn’t want to waste more time or energy on it.
If you aren’t successful, have an idea what you’ll do – will you get on with it, do something else (in the case of a complaint at a restaurant this week I would have gone somewhere else as there were other restaurants by it). Sometimes it can be really useful to tell staff what you will do instead, particularly if it means they lose your custom – they can suddenly become more responsive.
Realise that a solution can’t always be found for right here, right now. But this is a great time to make suggestions of what could be changed or done in future (also via Sarah)
Know what points your trying to make and be very clear.
Know what end result you want – stating what problem you have and asking for help gets one result, following that up with what you need or want gets another. Only you know what you want or need. (my mum suggested this one).
It can be a good idea to mention things like the DDA and legal requirement but personally I don’t do that as a first thing. I find a friendly yet firm approach tends to get more response, if that doesn’t work I then mention the legal side, formal complaints etc.
Realise that speaking out and advocacy can be really hard but it does get a bit easier. But doing it is a great thing!
Finally, always keep a supply of valium at hand! (suggested by BendyGirl)