National Self-Advocacy Program

The National Self-Advocacy Project is a unique collaboration between Israel Elwyn (IE) and Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS) designed to give people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to have their voices heard, to organize themselves and to work to advance their own rights and quality of life. Over the last five years, with the generous support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Ruderman Family Foundation, BIS and IE have successfully helped foster a network of self-advocacy groups for people with intellectual disabilities in Israel.

Groups have been established in cities in various parts of Israel. Each self-advocacy group is led by one or more members of the group with intellectual disabilities and is accompanied by a “facilitator” (without disabilities) who provides the group’s leader/s and members with assistance and guidance as necessary. Professional staff from Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn provide the supports needed, both knowledge and tools, to help individuals with disabilities themselves operate the program.

As the number of groups grows, it becomes increasingly important for them to work together on a regional and national basis through the National Group, established in the last two years. These joint efforts enable them to act effectively on regional and national issues that affect all people with intellectual disabilities and will encourage them to branch out from working only on very specific local issues to wider issues that will have a greater impact.

National conferences are held with the participation of the self-advocacy groups. The conferences are designed in collaboration with the leaders of each group (who themselves have intellectual disabilities), who have participated in the group leaders' course. The group leaders take the lead in planning the conference and implementing it, from operating the registration tables and leading the conference to organizing and guiding the discussion groups.

A steering committee composed of representatives from Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel Elwyn, advisors and graduates of the first group leaders course oversees the project.

Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation:

“There is an important saying in the world of disability, ‘Nothing about us without us’. As we continue to strongly advocate for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society, we must ensure that we continue to provide the resources to aid people with disabilities to learn toadvocate for themselves.  After all, people with disabilities are their own best advocates.”  

Photo:  Noam Galai


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