Self-determination is an idea that includes people choosing and setting their own goals, be­ing involved in making life decisions, self-advocating, and working to reach their goals. Although people often say it, self-determination is really not about control. It is about taking action in your life to get the things you want and need. For example, if someone says: "If you do this I’ll give you a soda" even if you decide to do it you are not the person who took the action in the first place. Self determination is when you set things up to get what you want. It is important to understand that self-determination usually contributes to positive results in areas like employment, educa­tion, community living, and an improved quality of life. (Wehmeyer et al., 2003).

"Much can be done when we raise our voices and join together. We cannot simply stand by and wait for someone else to take action. We must make our own history." -Ken Ervin

Some Important National Key Players in Self-Determination for People with Disabilities

  • Council on Community Advocacy assists AUCD to advance policy and practice for and with people with disabilities, their families, and communities. COCA serves as a model and resource for others desiring to infuse the participation of people with disabilities and family members into program planning, research, and evaluation.
  • National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities promotes and enhances the outcomes of member councils in developing and sustaining inclusive communities and self-directed services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services is a nonprofit organization, established in 1964, to improve and expand public services to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
  • National Disability Rights Network works through training and technical assistance, legal support, and legislative advocacy to create a society in which people with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination.
  • National Family Voices (including Kids as Self-Advocates) aims to achieve family-centered care for all children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities by providing tools to make informed decisions, advocate for improved public/private policies, build partnerships among professionals and families, and serve as a health care resource.
  • National Leadership Consortium at the University of Delaware is committed to helping develop the next generation of leaders who are passionate about quality, have the necessary management and financial skills, are capable of assembling top-notch teams of caring staff, and have a solid commitment to progressive values.
  • People First is designed to promote self-advocacy by speaking and acting on behalf of the rights and responsibilities of all people with developmental disabilities.
  • Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) is the self-advocacy organization of the United States. Founded in 1990, they have been working hard for the full inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in the community.
  • Sibling Leadership Network provides siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support, and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families.
  • Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) is a self-advocacy organization in the United States. Founded in 1990, they have been working hard for the full inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in the community.

Adapted from: The National Gateway to Self-Determination