Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities

inclusion. integration. independence.

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Goals &

Work Plan


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

GCDD Arkansas has a channel on YouTube with this and many more advocacy videos. Please visit our channel! The Council supports a variety of projects across the state focused on supporting and increasing advocacy. You can find out more about our initiatives and our partners below.

Arkansas Alliance for Disability Advocacy

In October of 2021, the Council began to support a new advocacy initiative through our partnership with Disability Rights Arkansas. The Arkansas Alliance for Disability Advocacy (AADA) was formed. The Alliance offers 3 programs: Community of Champions, Self-Advocate Network Development, and Partners in Policymaking.

Community of Champions

Community of Champions educates youth with and without disabilities, parents, community members, and civic & legislative leaders on the need for disability advocacy and how to be active in creating positive change. Advocacy Takes Action! Community of Champions offers trainings on civic engagement and participation, supporting citizens in learning about voting and legislative advocacy. This program also offers trainings on topics like self-determination and individualized education programs (IEPs). For youth in schools, there is the Champions Project which provides the tools to create a school club with a mission to aid students in fostering a more inclusive environment where acceptance is used to build genuine friendships between students with disabilities and without. 

Partners in Policymaking

Partners in Policymaking is a national leadership and disability advocacy training program for individuals with developmental disabilities and their family members. This program offers participants eight monthly sessions, teaching disability history and sharing effective ways to develop relationships with elected officials to directly influence public policy impacting people with disabilities. Applicants must be self-advocates or family members of individuals with developmental disabilities. The sessions run from September to May with the month of December off for the holidays.

Self-Advocate Network Development (SAND)

SAND provides advocacy training and leadership development to people with disabilites across Arkansas. This program trains self-advocates to know & understand their rights and to help teach others. Participants gain an uderstanding of self-determination along with tools they can use in daily life. Together, SAND members can create new self-advocacy groups and strengthen existing groups. The SAND project will also work to identify advisors/allies across the state to help support local self-advocacy groups. 

Disability Rights Arkansas 
Little Rock AR  72201-3455 

Other Resources:

Arkansas People First (APF)

Arkansas People First is a statewide self-advocacy organization with chapters across Arkansas.

Contact:  Shannon Rivas, APF State Secretary/APF Committee Coordinator

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:

SARTAC Zoom Meetings – 

SARTAC is hosting weekly Zoom meetings about topics that are important to self-advocates. All workshops use the SAME time and SAME link, on Thursdays at:

1:00 pm Eastern (ET), Noon Central (CT), 11:00 am Mountain (MT), and 10:00 am Pacific (PT)

Join on a computer, tablet, or smartphone
Or call 1-929-436-2866 and the Meeting ID: 324 815 633

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.

Allyship – We all need allies!

ally (noun) – a person who is not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but who expresses or gives support to that group; one that is associated with another as a helper; a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.

A person with a disability defined an ally as “someone who supports the cause of a marginalized group — women, people of color, people with disabilities, people in the LGBTQ community, people with low income, etc. — and uses their privilege to learn from that group and amplify their cause.”

About one in four adults in the U.S. experience a disability. Chances are, you know someone with disabilities. Do you wonder what role you can play in ensuring equity for people with disabilities? Some people advocate actively for the rights of people with disabilities, while others stand alongside people with disabilities, serving as their allies and supporting advocacy efforts.

Just like other skillsets, we can learn ways to be better allies! The first step towards being an effective ally is to be educated about the basics of disability, including types of disabilities and the laws and policies regarding disability, proper disability etiquette and how to use respectful language. Read below for more information.

Partners for Inclusive Communities is offering a webinar series of trainings about disability allies. Please contact Kiah Hall for more information (email or visit this webpage.

The CDC has information on Allyship at this website Become a Disability A.L.L.Y. in Your Community and Promote Inclusion for All.

A – Acknowledge and respect individual experiences and abilities.
L – Learn about different disability types.
L – Leverage your influence to promote accessibility and inclusion.
Y – Yield the floor to people with disabilities to help identify and eliminate barriers.