English Spanish
  • Know about, understand and assert their rights;
  • Obtain support to be effective self-advocates;
  • Practice self-determination and advocacy;
  • Learn and develop the skills necessary to advocate for one’s self;
  • Practice self-protection;
  • Obtain needed services; an
  • Fully participate in their community.
In certain circumstances, parents, other legal representatives or other supporters may need to be involved in making decisions with and on behalf of the individual. At such times, advocates must represent the interests of the individual. Advocates must be careful to recognize and set aside their own personal desires or points of view that may conflict with those of the individual for whom they are advocating. If there is a conflict of interest, the advocate should withdraw from the decision-making.


Systems change advocacy can provide tremendous benefit for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The goal of systems advocacy is to enhance public awareness of the rights, strengths, needs, and interests of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and influence law and policy to improve public and private systems of support and services. Family members and self-advocates should play a meaningful role in systems change. Agencies providing supports to individuals should also advocate for system change that will improve the quality of life for all individuals, whether supported by the agency or not.

Individuals should have access to Protection and Advocacy systems and other entities mandated by state and federal laws that:
  • Have the flexibility to respond to issues raised at any time during an individual’s life;
  • Are independent of conflicts of interest, undue influence and government control;
  • Are adequately funded and staffed;
  • Provide advocacy on their behalf even though a formal complaint has not been filed;
  • Have appropriate government or other oversight of quality, cost effectiveness, efficiency, and high standards to ensure the health, safety and well-being of individuals being served;
  • Use multiple advocacy strategies, such as information and referral, mediation, legal action, and legislative and regulatory solutions; and
  • Provide means for appealing unfavorable decisions.

Adopted:   Board of Directors, AAIDD
                  July 18, 2010
                  Board of Directors, The Arc of the United States
                  August 23, 2010
                  Congress of Delegates
                  November 6, 2010

1 “People with intellectual disabilities and/or developmental disabilities” refers to those defined by the AAIDD classification and DSM IV. In everyday language they are frequently referred to as people with cognitive, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities although the professional and legal definitions of those terms both include others and exclude some defined by DSM IV.

The Arc of US