Advocacy seeks to ensure that people have their voice heard on issues that are important to them, fight for their rights, and have their opinions and wishes considered when decisions are being made about their lives (SEAP, 2015).
Advocacy enables people to express their views and concerns, access information and services, and explore their choices and options. Advocacy promotes equality, social justice and social inclusion (Dalrymple & Boylan, 2013). Advocacy can empower people to speak up for themselves and become more aware of their own rights and their ability to influence decisions that are made about their future.
An advocate is someone who provides support when you need it (SEAP, 2015). An advocate may help you access information you might need, attend meetings or interviews with you, or act as a supportive role in different situations. Advocates may write letters on your behalf, or even speak for you in situations where you do not feel able to speak for yourself. SMILES believes you have the ability and responsibility to direct your own life. SMILES can assist you in learning how to become a self-advocate, which is an essential element of success as people with disabilities work to build independent lives.
SMILES can assist with many areas of advocacy, including: initial applications and appeals for Social Security benefits, understanding and applying for Medicare and Medical Assistance, assistance in completing forms for government agencies, assistance with resolving issues as they relate to disability laws, and systems advocacy. Systems advocacy is an ongoing effort to improve the lives of people with disabilities in the community by removing barriers, whether they be architectural or attitudinal. Systems advocacy is an ongoing service available for all people with disabilities to promote awareness of local, state, and national issues that affect the lives of people with disabilities.