This paper provides an overview of the methods and synthesises findings from an ARC Linkage project that explored Self Advocacy and Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities and considers the implications of the findings in the context of the National Disability Strategy (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011) and reforms to the disability service system thorough the introduction of the NDIS (2013).
This study has demonstrated the significant contribution that self-advocacy groups make to the social inclusion of individual members and in furthering the inclusive capacity of communities. Self-advocacy groups are hybrid organisations with few parallels.
• They are not simply about advocacy - standing up for the right of their members or supporting people to speak up and stand up for their own rights.
• They are not simply peer support or self-help groups – sharing experiences of occupying a common social position and fostering the emotional growth, skills and well-being of members.
• They are not simply one of the many clubs or societies that make up civic society and constitute the glue that binds communities together - offering membership to those with common interests or shared passions, opportunities to meet people and make friends and a sense of belonging and participation in meaningful activities.
Self-advocacy groups do all of these things well and they are fundamentally important to the social inclusion of people with intellectual disability. They have the potential to transform individuals’ lives and contribute to social change in society. Based on rich qualitative data from a small number of groups, this study has provided the evidence for these claims.