Take Charge of Your Health Online

Self-Advocacy OnlineBy Kerry Mauger, Training Coordinator, The Arc

The Arc’s HealthMeet initiative has partnered with The University of Minnesota to develop two educational modules about exercise and wellness to be featured on an innovative new website called Self-Advocacy Online. This site is a great resource for people with an intellectual disability to gather information, find self-advocacy groups in their area, learn new ideas, and hear stories from other self-advocates just like them who have similar fears, dreams and aspirations in life.

Now on the site, self-advocates can access lessons to help guide them in living a healthier lifestyle and finding ways to become more active and increase their fitness level.  These digital lessons are created with input from a team of self-advocates to ensure that all the material included in them is accessible to individuals with all types of disabilities.  Each module uses accessible language, has a self-advocate speaking for the audio portion and uses entertaining pictures and short video clips to reinforce the messages in the lessons.

The first module, “Taking Care of Myself,” is an overview of what it means to live a happy, healthy life.  It explains the big-picture view that to be healthy and happy it means taking care of your body as well as your mind, and learning to develop healthy relationships with people that support you.  The second module, “Exercise,” is all about the different types of exercise (cardio, strength and stretching) that your body needs in order for it to be healthy. It explains why it is essential that we exercise, how many times a week is recommended and uses short video clips to show different exercises that you can do along with the instructor.

These resources help teach healthy lifestyle lessons and are available for self-advocates to watch and refer back to at their own pace as often as they like.  Learning is a process is that never stops.  Through the HealthMeet project, The Arc plans to build two additional healthy lesson modules in the upcoming year to help empower self-advocates to take charge of their own health and wellness.  Resources like Self-Advocacy Online are a stepping stone to help individuals with disabilities live a more independent healthier life.

Hopes and Dreams

This time of year many people are making plans for the future, figuring out what needs to be done in the next year to accomplish their goals and work toward their dreams. The Arc and www.selfadvocacyonline.org, a project of the Research and Training Center on Community Living at The University of Minnesota, had the opportunity to ask several individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to share their hopes and dreams for the future with us.

Help People Like Quincy

It is The Arc’s goal to help these individuals achieve their goals. We do that directly through the services provided by our national network of chapters and through projects such as HealthMeet™ and Autism NOW. And we work indirectly, advocating for the full inclusion of people with I/DD in society and making sure the appropriate supports are in place to allow that. But we can’t do any of those things without you. Find out how you can help real people with I/DD like Quincy, Adonis, Wendy, Joe, Amy, Jill, Ciara, David, Miki, and Sarah turn their dreams into reality through a donation to The Arc. Achieve with us!

Quincy Mwiya

Quincy: To settle down and have a wife and children

Adonis: “I’m working on completing my MBA. When you have a disability it doesn’t mean you can’t do the same things other people can, but you have limitations….you may have to work a little slower, you may have to do things a little different. My focus is to make sure that the person who is seeking an independent lifestyle has everything that they need, not only on a personal level but on a social level as well. People don’t want to come out of institutions and just turn around and go into a little apartment that becomes their whole life. No, they want a fully inclusive life, and that’s what I’m preaching. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Just looking at a person from the viewpoint of their disability does not tell you what that person is capable of achieving.”

Wendy: “Honestly, what I’d really love to do right now is to be a full time self-advocate and work on these issues (related to I/DD)…organize other self-advocates. I love politics. To do stuff with grassroots organizing, I think that would be the most fun job in the world.

Joe: One of my biggest dreams to date is to get healthy again (after a stroke) and try to take care of myself and when I go out into my community, practice what I preach. We learn from each other how to be better people.

Amy: “So far I’ve met my dreams of getting a job and being self-sufficient and independent. My next one is to own my own home. I should be able to do that in the next year or so. I have always had that dream of the white picket fence and a little house and a garden and I’d like to make that come true. I don’t need anything huge, just enough for one or two people. And something so you can feel like you’re independent and feel like everybody else.”

Jill: “My dreams are to think big and to say that people with I/DD have a lot to offer.”

Ciara: “One of my dreams is coming true – I’m getting married next year. One of my goals in the next few years will be thinking about having a family. So, I’ve got quite a few.”

David: My dreams and goals are to go as far as I can. My goal is to be around, maybe not always be a leader, but ensure that things happen for people with intellectual disabilities. I suppose ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities are treated the same as other people. Ideally I’d love to see them have more power.”

Miki: “My dream is to get married and to have children.”

Sarah: I have so many hopes and dreams. If I had to pick one, probably it would be to go back to college. I have taken classes one at a time. So far I have 15 credits. It’s hard for people with disabilities to go to college, it’s another reason why I advocate. If I get a degree, it would probably be in media or in – something I have learned recently – advocacy.

NOTE: The Research and Training Center on Community Living at The University of Minnesota | SAO is developed in part through past support by the Nec Foundation and by The MacArthur Foundation. The Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC) operates with primary funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). It also receives funding from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) and other federal agencies. The RTC is part of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.