Self Advocates

Photograph of people at a rally holding signs "no more cuts" and "don't cut my friends" and more

The most powerful advocates are passionate people who understand an issue from personal experience. YAI's Self Advocates dedicate their time to helping the community at-large understand disabilities and disability support from a human angle. They speak with elected officials about policies and programs that support people with disabilities. They also educate staff about their needs and rights and participate on committees and boards to guide agency activities. 

The YAI NYC Self Advocacy Association was established more than 20 years ago, with the help of YAI staff member Bobra Fyne. About eight years ago, the group developed the Self Advocates Newsletter and “In My Shoes,” a training program that taught YAI staff and others how to best support YAI’s Self Advocates. Self-advocacy groups throughout the YAI Network advocate and voice their opinions to educate and reinforce the importance of respect and inclusion for people with I/DD. 

Some other YAI self-advocacy projects have included: 

  • Joining the Special Olympics in the “Erase the ‘R’ Word” campaign. 
  • Partnering with the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State in the campaign to end the SSI Marriage Penalty. 
  • Working with The Moth, a non-profit based in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, to develop YAI Moth stories that illustrate the inspirational self advocates’ life-changing experiences. 

Learn more what's on the minds of Self Advocates by reading the YAI Self Advocates Newsletter page

Other recommended resources:  


What is self advocacy?

  • Making our own choices 
  • Speaking up for, or acting on behalf of, ourselves or others 
  • Standing up for our rights 
  • Learning about our rights and responsibilities 
  • Fighting discrimination 
  • Asking questions - if we are not sure or do not understand something 
  • Educating ourselves so we can learn to be more independent  

What if I have employment-related questions?

Employment services at YAI provide job-skills training, resume development, interview preparation, application assistance, intensive job-coaching, and follow-along support to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who wish to obtain and maintain competitive employment. 

More information about Employment Services is available by calling YAI LINK at 212.273.6182 

How can I become a Self Advocate?

YAI's Self Advocacy group meets on a regular basis in different locations throughout New York. While our meetings are virtual because of COVID now, we are still open and are welcoming new members. You can fill out an application form here.