Arkansas Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities

inclusion. integration. independence.



GCDD Arkansas on YouTube:

Learn more about GCDD Arkansas' advocacy efforts through our videos on YouTube.


Self-Advocate Network Development (SAND)

Darren Morris, Arkansas Statewide Self-Advocate Coordinator
Phone: 501-492-5751
400 West Capitol Avenue, Suite #1200
Little Rock AR  72201-3455

Darren Morris is Arkansas’ statewide self-advocate coordinator for the Arkansas DD Network (a collaboration of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities Arkansas, Disability Rights Arkansas, and University of Arkansas Partners for Inclusive Communities) through the GCDD Arkansas’ SAND project.  Darren serves as the Self-Advocate Coordinator at Disability Rights Arkansas. He travels around the state helping train self-advocates in how to speak up and stand up for themselves, and to rebuild the various self-advocacy chapters around the state. Darren also serves as treasurer of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), a national self-advocacy group, along with being the vice president of the Board of Directors of People First Arkansas. If you are a self-advocate in Arkansas and would like to learn more about advocacy, call or email Darren.

Community of Champions

Ally Thomlinson, Director of Community of Champions
Phone:  479-967-2322 ext. 327

Ally Thomlinson is a parent advocate and Champion for IDD. She is active in a number of advocacy organizations in Arkansas. Ally works for Friendship Community Care, a service provider organization based in Russellville, AR. Community of Champions (COC) is a statewide advocacy program funded by the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Their mission is to develop every Arkansan into an advocate for themselves or their peers. COC envisions communities full of champions, advocating for individuals with developmental disabilities. Community of Champions strives to educate, inspire, and empower peer advocates, self-advocates, and state leaders to understand the importance behind advocacy and how it brings our communities closer together, growing our state to its maximum potential. If you would like to learn more about advocacy and the growing Community of Champions, call or email Ally. Join the Community & Become a Champion:

I Champion, Do You? Video


Arkansas People First (APF)

Shannon Rivas, APF State Secretary/APF Committee Coordinator

Arkansas People First is a statewide self-advocacy organization with chapters in Little Rock, Harrison, Conway, Arkadelphia, Pine Bluff and Fayetteville.

APF State Officers 2019:
Tim Hill – APF State President
Darren Morris – APF State Vice President
Shannon Rivas – APF State Secretary
April Plumlee – APF State Treasurer
Alan Plumlee – APF Ex-Officio


Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) is a national self-advocacy organization. We are a national board of regional representatives and members from every state in the US. SABE’s mission is to ensure that people with disabilities are treated as equals and that they are given the same decisions, choices, rights, responsibilities, and chances to speak up to empower themselves; opportunities to make new friends, and to learn from their mistakes.

For questions about membership and finding local and statewide self-advocacy organizations contact SABE at:

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered
255 E. Osborn Rd, Suite 103
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Mailing address:  PO Box 872, Mason, OH 45040



SARTAC Self-Advocacy Group Resources

Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center (SARTAC), a project of SABE, provides a tremendous number of resources for self-advocacy groups on their website. You can access resources by topic. Topics include Accessibility, Advocacy, Building Strong Boards, Event Planning, Fundraising, Getting People Involved, Keeping Track of Money, Running an Organization, Social Media, and many more.

» Visit the SARTAC Resources page:


Why get involved in Advocacy?

If it wasn’t for advocacy, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would not be living lives of independence. They would not be receiving the supports and services needed to be successful, contributory members of our society. Nothing is more essential to ensuring meaningful, productive lives in the community for people with disabilities than strong, consistent advocacy.

It is absolutely essential that people who care about individuals with disabilities make their voices heard, especially with their elected officials. One of the best way for allies, friends and supporters to join in advocacy efforts is to write your local and state elected officials. Together, advocates have built an amazing system of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But, with your involvement in advocacy, that system can be improved, and you can help to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the future.

Why is disability advocacy so important?

Throughout history, people with disabilities have been hidden away or subjected to abuse, ignorance and prejudice. The power of disability advocacy has radically shifted thinking to recognize the rights of all people with a disability to live integrated lives, in the community, with choices equal to others.

Disability advocacy came from the disability rights movement. Significant battles have been fought for the rights of people with disabilities, including the right to have access to a range of support services necessary to support living an independent, unsegregated (integrated, inclusive) life. One of the most important of these hard-won rights being the right of individuals with disabilities to choose for themselves which type of supports and services are best for them. And more recently, the right to choose employment (competitive, integrated employment).

Disability advocates joined forces to demand equal treatment, equal access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. They challenged stereotypes, rallied for political and institutional change, and lobbied for self-determination – on the streets, in the courts, across the media, within service agencies and organizations, and in the halls of power.

Today, individuals with disabilities still face many barriers. Therefore, disability advocacy remains so important. Continued support and involvement is needed, by all types of advocates, to ensure that these individuals enjoy the same rights and freedoms as people without disabilities. Disability advocacy continues to promote equal opportunity for people with disability to participate in all areas of life including: Health, Safety, Education, Employment, and Income. Disability advocacy will ensure that our service and support system is continually improved. By participating in advocacy, you can help to make sure that our system continues to meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the years to come.

Nothing About Us Without Us! The Importance of Self-Advocates

"Nothing About Us Without Us!" is a phrase used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. It came into use in disability activism during the 1990s as a rallying cry to ensure that individuals with disabilities are always included in the design of support and service systems (which provide access to needed community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life for individuals with disabilities).

The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) has developed the “Nothing About Us Without Us” Best Practices for Supporting Statewide Self-Advocacy Organizations was developed by NACDD’s Self-Advocacy Committee and numerous self-advocate leaders from advocacy organizations around the country. This guide provides information on how best to support building and sustaining strong and active self-advocacy organizations in the United States and Territories. You can access this resource here.

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) and their technical assistance project, SARTAC, the Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center, also have made available many helpful resources on improving advocacy skills, building and supporting local self-advocacy groups, civil rights (disability rights ARE civil rights!) and diversity, among other topics. 

Why is “culture change” important? (Inclusive Culture)

It really is all about culture change. In the past 50 years, the power of disability advocacy has fostered this culture change by shifting cultural thinking to recognize the rights of all people with a disability to live integrated lives, in the community, with choices equal to others. Communities and organizations that embrace inclusive culture value and appreciate each person for their individual differences and experiences. Communities and organizations can benefit greatly from these diverse perspectives. Promoting culture change and creating inclusive culture isn’t difficult, but does require some forethought. In the end, inclusive culture benefits everyone, enriching the lives of individuals with and without disabilities.

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