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Advocacy for People with Disabilities

This training course is intended to help domestic violence advocates: 

  • understand how living with a disability impacts the lives of survivors of abuse; 
  • learn how people with disabilities are engaged in civil rights and Disability Justice movements; 
  • learn practical tools that will help with advocacy for survivors with disabilities; and
  • develop ideas about building community partnerships with disability advocates. 

Completing this course constitutes 11 self-study hours.


Part I: Overview

This lesson provides basic information about advocating for people with disabilities. The materials will help you understand why it is important to advocate for people with disabilities, where to begin your advocacy, what a disability is, and information about violence against people with disabilities. 


Part II: Issues facing survivors with disabilities

People with disabilities have been leading civil rights and Disability
Justice movements. This lesson will help you understand more about what it is like to live with a disability, the issues faced by survivors with disabilities, and the history of the Disability Justice movement in the United States. 

  • Watch the film, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, 2020.
  • Read “Disability Gulag” by Harriet McBryde Johnson.
  • Read Chapter 2: The Duality of Experiences—Issues Facing Victims with Disabilities in Enough and Yet Not Enough: An Educational Resource Manual on Domestic Violence Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Review these slides to learn more about what it is like to live with a disability.
  • Advocacy tip: When talking with survivors, listen for ways an abusive partner may have used their disability and societal biases against them. Your ability to identify these tactics will strengthen your advocacy and support survivors’ decision-making and safety.
  • Apply your learning from this section by journaling your responses to the following questions:
    1. What was the most interesting or new thing that you learned from reading “Disability Gulag”? 
    2. Give an example from “Disability Gulag” of how a policy or practice that was supposed to provide care and protection actually resulted in isolation and loss of control for people with disabilities. 
    3. The author of “Disability Gulag” says she learned early that “privilege doesn’t always last.” Think of three ways that loss of privilege or power could affect a person with a disability when deciding whether or not to leave an abusive partner. 
    4. If you provide direct services to survivors, what was the most relevant practical piece of information you got from “Disability Gulag” that you will apply to your work? 
    5. What are three reasons why a person with a disability may not want to disclose that they have experienced abuse? 
    6. Would your organization provide services to a survivor of domestic violence whose abuser was their personal assistant (not their spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend)? 
    7. If someone was seeking shelter from your organization and they needed personal assistance services, how would your program meet their needs? 
    8. Provide three examples of abusive tactics that survivors with disabilities experience that are different from survivors without disabilities. 
    9. After watching Crip Camp, describe two tactics of organizing in the Disability Justice movement that led to legislative changes.

Part III: Model protocols for domestic violence programs for people with disabilities 

In this lesson, you will learn about screening and safety practices. Read the following model protocols for practical suggestions when advocating for people with disabilities:

Put your learning into practice:

  • Look at your program’s crisis line and intake forms. How do you currently ask about needs a survivor might have to access your services? Do you ask anything that might make a person hesitant to talk about what they need?
  • Write down a few sample questions that you think might make your initial contact or intake more welcoming.
  • Take a look at your program’s safety planning forms. Write down a few additional questions that might address safety concerns specific to survivors with disabilities.
  • Share your ideas with coworkers!
  • For additional information and advocacy tools, please review the “Disability” topic in our Resource Library.

Part IV: Creating relationships with disability advocates in your community 

The final lesson of this training course is experiential in nature.

  • Utilize these tips and resources to find local disability advocates in your community.
  • Contact a disability advocate and ask if they would be open to talking with you about domestic violence and supporting survivors with disabilities. Set up a meeting, either by phone or in person, to: tell one another about your work; identify areas where expertise could be shared; identify ways you might collaborate; and discuss possible cross-training opportunities.
  • Use these questions and prompts to help guide your discussion.
  • After your meeting, schedule a time to talk to your supervisor about what you learned. Discuss the following with your supervisor:
    • the services the disability advocate provides, and when you might refer survivors to them;
    • if/when you do refer survivors, how their services support survivor autonomy;
    • potential cross-training opportunities; and
    • any additional ways your two organizations could collaborate for the benefit of survivors with disabilities.
  • Write about the meetings you had using the following prompts:
    1. Briefly describe the organization of the disability advocate you met with and who they serve. 
    2. When would you refer survivors with disabilities to this organization? 
    3. How could your two organizations support the decisions made by people with disabilities who have experienced domestic violence? 
    4. In your discussion with your supervisor, did you schedule any cross-training between your two organizations? If yes, briefly describe the topics you will address in the training. 
    5. Briefly describe any next steps your two organizations are taking as a result of your meeting. 

Training Hours Confirmation

After reviewing all of this information and resources on this page, complete this form to receive an email confirmation of your self-study hours per WAC 388-61A-1080.
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