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Self-Advocacy means
realizing what's important,
speaking up about it
and making a difference!

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Advocates in Action RI, Inc.

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Advocates in Action: Who We Are

Advocates in Action Rhode Island is an independent non-profit Statewide Self-Advocacy organization. Our mission is to empower people who have a developmental disability to advocate for themselves and others, to support and strengthen the Self‐Advocacy movement and to raise awareness about disability issues in the community. We strive to help people become educated about their options, aware of available resources, able to make informed decisions, in control of their own lives, and involved within the community.

RHODE ISLAND'S ANNUAL STATEWIDE SELF-ADVOCACY CONFERENCE: We have been hosting this since 1995 and the number of attendees has increased over the years. Although we weren’t able to hold this event in 2020 due to the pandemic, we’ll be back on track and schedule the next statewide conference as soon as it’s safe to do so. Stay tuned and get ready for something AWESOME!


THE LEADERSHIP SERIES: We coordinate a year-long Leadership Series training for individuals who have a developmental disability, families and support staff. Class members learn how to become leaders, both in their own lives and in society. They have the opportunity to put these new skills to use helping to plans, publicize and facilitate Rhode Island's Annual Statewide Self-Advocacy meeting and other events throughout the year.


PROMOTING EMPLOYMENT FIRST: Advocates in Action is proud to represent the voice of individuals who receive DD services as a member of the Employment First Task Force. The EFTF is a group of many different stakeholders who are a part of the RI system of day services for adults who have an intellectual/developmental disability and students who are in transition.
The EFTF was as established as one of the requirements that RI agreed to when it signed a Consent Decree with the Department of Justice in 2014. Click here to learn about the Consent Decree at This site was created by our friend and colleague, Gina Macris.

Gina is a retired journalist who worked at the Providence Journal. She’s also the mother of a son who receives DD services, and a Leadership Series alumna, after graduating with her son in 2016. We’ve found Gina’s site to be an amazing resource and hope you will, too!

At Advocates in Action RI, we believe that everyone who wants to work should be able to pursue that goal. Having a disability shouldn't stop you! We're committed to sharing this message with individuals, families and the RI community as we work together to promote employment for people who have an intellectual/developmental disability. Let's get to work!


RHODE ISLAND'S STATEWIDE SELF-ADVOCACY MEETING: As mentioned above, our organization hosts this annual event, and also uses is as an opportunity for members of our Leadership Series to practice the skills they learn in class, while teaching others about a specific topic.

The meetings are free and open to the public. They usually highlight at least one of the current “Hot Topics” regarding the RI DD System and how it may affect individuals who receives services and their families.

We couldn’t hold the 2020 statewide meeting in person due to safety concerns during the pandemic, so our Leadership Series class created a 2-part presentation that included highlights from the disability rights movement and information about how to vote. Members used the skills we covered in class to share both presentations virtually on the Zoom video platform.

CLICK HERE to watch a recording of the presentations, and other virtual events.


THIS IS US: We began this disability awareness program in 1998 as a way to change attitudes and break-down barriers by introducing elementary school students to people who have a disability. Since then, we shared our message that “we’re more alike than different” with thousands of students in grades K-12, colleges and universities.
We’ve also brought it to service provide agencies, who have used it as part of their Direct Support Professional training curriculum. In addition, we’ve taken a “train the trainers” presentation on the road and hosted Self-Advocates from other states, who have used the information to create similar programs at home.

CLICK HERE to download an information flyer.

CLICK HERE to send us an email if you’re interested in having our team visit your school, organization or business.


ACCESSIBLE MATERIALS: We design and adapt materials in a variety of formats to help people understand issues related to Self-Advocacy. Information is POWER, but you need to be able to understand it if you're going to use it. By making material accessible, we are working towards our mission of empowering so they can advocate for themselves.


LOCAL SELF-ADVOCACY GROUPS: We support local Self-Advocacy groups by sharing materials, information about events, Peer to Peer advice and guidance, and by offering speakers who can attend meetings to present about specific topics. We also help support the RI Self-Advocacy network by connecting local groups from around the state and introducing Rhode Island Self-Advocates to colleagues who are involved in the movement in other states.


STORIES OF SUCCESS: We help individuals share their voice by capturing their stories in a variety of formats including photos, multimedia, About Me Boxes and more.
We believe that information is power, and that each person’s story can be one of the most powerful tools of all for speaking up, breaking down barriers, and building community, both for the individual, and those around them.


RESOURCE SHARING: We use our website to share a variety of materials that our organization has created over the years, along with resources from others. We also use our Public Calendar to share events and activities related to Self-Advocacy and the DD Community. These include the ones that we host, along with those offered by friends and allies.

CLICK HERE to email us if you’re looking for information on a specific topic or event, or have something you’d like to share.


INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING: We work on a variety of different projects each year that are in line with our mission. We are currently in the final production stages of the documentary film Best Judgment: Ladd School Lessons.

Best Judgment tells the story of the Joseph H. Ladd Center, Rhode Island's former institution for people with developmental disabilities. Unlike traditional documentaries, we believe that Best Judgment will be unique because it is being produced by a Self-Advocacy organization. We are thrilled to be working with academy award nominated documentary film producer Jim Wolpaw, along with the award-winning Harken Productions on this project. More importantly, we are also working with, and being guided by former, Ladd school residents, along with individuals who might be living in the institution today if it were still open.


FILM CREW: The AinA-RI Film Crew is a team of Self-Advocates and filmmaking professionals who are working and learning. While the Self-Advocates involved teach others about disability awareness from a personal perspective, the filmmakers share their knowledge about topics that include camera and audio techniques, lighting, interview skills, and more.

The Crew is currently involved in the production of Best Judgment, after which we plan to produce a work that will catalog personal stories of success from individual who have a developmental disability, family members and allies. Our goal is to be the change we hope to see by using these stories to raise awareness and breakdown barriers. One of the ways we hope to achieve this is by archiving the project in the Library of Congress and making it available to public libraries, institutes of higher education, and other interested parties. Together we can make a difference!


RIDE THE WAVE: In 2000 we hosted the National Self-Advocacy conference with the support of agencies from around Rhode Island and our partners at PAL. RIDE the Wave was also the bi-annual meeting for the national organization Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE). More than 1,200 attended!


NEAT: in 1998 we worked with our peers in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont to form a coalition of State Self-Advocacy organizations called North East Advocates Together. NEAT is an amazing resource of shared information from the Self-Advocacy events, activities and ideas in each of our states. In 2013, NEAT members collaborated and were awarded a grant from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to support the Self-Advocacy movement in our home states. Since then, the federal government has continued to support the movement by funding the Self-Advocacy Resources and Technical Assistance Center.

CLICK HERE to visit the SARTAC website.


COMMUNITY BUILDING EVENTS: Our organization has hosted a variety of community building events over the years, including the No Talen Show, the Beach Bash, and the Statewide Self-Advocacy Group Holiday party. All of our community events are open to the public and we encourage people who aren’t part of the DD community to join us.

In addition to having a blast together, these events provide an important opportunity for people from all walks of life to socialize and connect with someone outside of their usual circle of friends. They’re a powerful way to raise disability awareness, and to re-affirm the message that we’re more alike than different!


We realize we’ve mentioned “Self-Advocacy a lot on this page. CLICK HERE to download a 1-page flyer that helps explain what it’s all about.

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