Heidi and Nicole have known each other for years. Heidi is Nicole’s dental hygienist. They have many stories already about the dentist chair, having x-rays and getting cavities filled. They are now going to create new stories that include each other outside of the dental chair. Heidi was asked to be a connector for Nicole. A connector is someone who hears the advocate description and carries the story to people in the community. When she heard the description she said she knew the perfect person to be Nicole’s advocate — herself.
Citizen Advocates begin from the premise that people with disabilities are inherently valuable, and relationships are established in their own right. Citizen advocates can play key roles in helping their partner to be more a part of community life. An advocate can speak up on behalf of a person. Since many people with disabilities experience a lack of control over almost every aspect of their existence, most people with disabilities are enmeshed in a human service system where they become clients, numbers, and definitions in order to fit into service delivery systems. Constant changes in programming, support staff, and fragmented services places the person with a disability in unstable environments. Paid service providers enhance a stigma of “the only people who will care for me are those who are paid to care.” In Citizen Advocacy, an ordinary citizen genuinely reaches out to the disabled individual in friendship, compassion, and interest in the person’s wellbeing. A very positive message of value and self-worth is sent to the disabled person. The longer the relationship exists, the more these positive influences have a chance to be reinforced over and over again.
(Citizen Advocacy staff)