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What Are Disability Advocates?

Disability advocates work to get or retain rights for those who are disabled.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The term disability advocate can mean several things. Normally anyone who advocates does so on the behalf of someone else, and it’s easy to see that a person of this nature advocates for another person who is disabled. Advocacy is performed in order to get or retain rights that may be available to a disabled person, such as government payments or modifications to learning environments. What is sought depends on each country’s benefits and each individual, and disability advocates may specialize in a certain area, only working with clients that need specific things. Such representatives may work for free or, more commonly, they may charge people for their services.

In countries like the US, there are a number of professional representatives who work with the disabled to help them navigate complicated applications for disability/Medicare and supplemental security income. These may be lawyers or others certified as disability advocates, who step in if applications have been denied. Since it can be true that denials are almost routine in certain gray area cases, many people feel they will have greater chance of success if they engage services of a disability advocate, who is usually certified by the state, or a disability lawyer. In many cases, advocates can make a difference, but people have to pay for this service, and if they are disabled, it can be difficult to make such payments because income is already reduced.

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It is possible to work with disability advocates, especially through charitable organizations, who work for free. Additionally, people may simply work with another person who is a friend or relative. At appeals, anyone applying for disability income is allowed to bring representatives. Someone knowledgeable in disability law could be very useful in this respect.

In the US, another form of disability advocate works in the special education field, and may be called a special education advocate. These people may either be specialists in special ed law or they could be lawyers. Their job is to help parents advocate for kids who have individualized education plans or 504 plans. Sometimes schools cannot meet plan obligations or make decisions regarding accommodations/modifications that are not beneficial to children. Disability advocates may be able to help change minds, speed process of special ed delivery or testing, or demand certain rights a school has failed to recognize. Again, these advocates are typically paid, though sometimes parents are able to engage the services of a teacher or other specialist on a volunteer basis.

Successful disability advocates of any form tend to have exceptional knowledge in the laws and good communication skills so they can advise clients. It isn’t always necessary to engage their services, despite their skills. Advertisements from lawyers and others do play on TV broadcasts regularly, suggesting it is impossible to get services without the help of a disability advocate. Frequently, this is not the case, and people can do much by being politely persistent and entering appeals processes. On the other hand, when attempts to obtain help repeatedly fail, it may be worth hiring an advocate

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