Tia Nelis is the Director of Policy & Advocacy for TASH. She has been a LEND Self-Advocacy Discipline Coordinator at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center within the Institute on Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois at Chicago. She also is one of the past chairperson of the National Organization of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered. She founded and successfully promoted People First of Illinois, where she served as president.

I am writing about whether or not we should use the word self-advocate anymore. Here is my feeling: I believe that it is important that people with disabilities should be able to be called what they want. To some people it may not be important to them and to others it is. I feel that we should be able to say this is how I want to be known.  Self-advocates feel that it is important to remember to speak up and then help others speak up for themselves. Advocates feel strongly also about how they feel and want to be called and should be able to be called an advocate if that is what they choose. 

Both Advocate and Self-Advocate are a part of the movement and important to people. I don’t feel people should have to choose or have big debates. It’s about respecting each other’s preferences and use the term that people prefer when talking to them. We have so many other important things that are happening to people with disabilities out there that we need to focus on. We should not argue about this just respect each other.  This is how I feel and have heard from others who care strongly about each way. So, I hope we can just feel comfortable enough to just let people choose what they feel best for them.