Student Advocacy Toolkit

Students shared their experiences advocating for accommodations and more in this live panel in June 2021.

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What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is the ability to articulate one’s needs and make informed decisions about the support necessary to meet those needs. Self-advocacy is an important skill to express what you need in school, the workplace and the community. Effective self-advocacy involves four important parts:

  • Knowledge of self

  • Knowledge of rights

  • Communication skills

  • Leadership skills

 

Strong self-advocacy skills help you get what you need and have control over your accommodations.

Self-Advocacy Topics

 

Self-advocacy is the ability to articulate one’s needs and make informed decisions about the support necessary to meet those needs. It requires four important elements: knowledge of self, knowledge of rights, communication skills, and leadership skills. For individuals with one or more disabilities, including deaf individuals, an increase in self-advocacy skills contributes to an increased quality of life, sense of agency, and overall well-being.

Self-advocacy is a lifelong endeavor that can never be learned too early or too late in life. Practicing self-advocacy is a critical element of the self-advocacy developmental process and individuals who do it are better prepared to self-advocate in the future.

Note: The website for deafselfadvocacy.org has been taken down since the infographic was created, and the image has not been updated. The full resources now reflect an updated link: www.interpretereducation.org/deaf-self-advocacy.

Self-Advocacy_ Navigating Disclosure in the Workplace.pdf  ( English | Spanish )
 
Deciding how, when, and why to disclose a disability to an employer is an important part of the job-seeking process. The decision can significantly affect one’s ability to obtain and maintain employment. The different stages of the employment process and the potential impacts of disclosure at each stage deserve thoughtful reflection.

Deaf teenagers already have a lot on their minds, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. And like all teenagers, they are experiencing lots of feelings of uncertainty, anticipation, and insecurity as they navigate the transition from child to adult. That’s where self-determination can help — during the pandemic and beyond.

What is Self-Determination?

Self-determination is about acting or causing things to happen in your life so that you can reach your goals. There are three parts to it: decide, act, and believe.

And it’s powerful: Research shows deaf youth with higher levels of self-determination during high school are more likely to enroll in college, live independently, have positive self-beliefs, make more money at work, and have more opportunities for career advancement. People who are self-determined are good problem solvers because they figure out how to reach goals at school, work, and home, even when they run into problems.

Setting and making plans to achieve self-determination goals needs to be part of deaf students’ transition planning in high school, which should include the use of well-designed and accessible assessments.

Measure Your Strengths

The National Deaf Center collaborated with Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities to translate the Self-Determination Inventory: Student Report (SDI:SR) from English to American Sign Language (ASL).

This online assessment asks about how youth feel about their ability to be self-determined: to make choices, set and go after goals, and make decisions. Designed for youth between the ages of 13 and 22, it takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

When students complete the assessment, they receive a report about their strengths and areas of need, which can then be used to set goals and develop plans.

Tips for Building Self-Determination Skills

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with many schools closed and some transition planning services on hold, instilling and strengthening self-determination skills can be done online at home. Here are six tips.

  • Take the self-determination assessment

    This short online assessment of self-determination skills (SDI:SR) helps deaf youth better understand their strengths and weaknesses related to making choices, setting goals, and believing in themselves.

  • Review the student report

    After completing the SDI:SR, students will receive a student report with their score, along with an ASL video that explains what the report means. Students can share this report with their families, teachers, and vocational rehabilitation counselors, to help develop plans for strengthening self-determination. Families and professionals can use a report guide to work together on a plan.

  • Decide on goals that align with personal preferences

    Encourage students to think about getting ready for life after high school, and their goals for continuing their education, getting a job, and living their life. Use the Choose Your Future! Activity Kit to discuss their strengths, interests, and needs. Then empower them to decide on goals that align with those personal preferences.

  • Make a plan

    Students can work with their families, teachers, or vocational rehabilitation counselors and use the Choose Your Future! Activity Kit to develop a detailed plan for reaching their goals. These goals can then be integrated in transition planning, like individualized education plans (IEPs), vocational rehabilitation meetings, and pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS).

  • Play Deafverse to practice skills

    Deafverse is a free online game that gives deaf youth a safe space to practice applying self-determination skills at home, in school, and in the community. Expansion activities are also available in downloadable Strategy Guides.

  • Encourage deaf youth to believe in themselves

    Role models are valuable — deaf youth benefit from learning how deaf adults navigate barriers to succeed at school, work, and in their personal lives. Many online resources are available that share stories from deaf adults. Check out #DeafSuccess videos and #DeafAtWork stories from National Deaf Center, #DeafAtWork videos from National Association of the Deaf, and #RealPeople from DPAN.TV.

Plan Your Future: A Guide to Vocational Rehabilitation For Deaf Youth (English | Spanish)

VR Checklist (English | Spanish)

Deaf youth, like you, have many different hopes, dreams, and goals. Many programs and services are available to help you succeed. One important program is vocational rehabilitation (VR), which helps you plan to reach your educational and career goals. VR is helpful, but the process of receiving services and the language that VR agencies use can be overwhelming!

This guide summarizes the process and shares important information that will help you get the services you need to succeed. Keep in mind that each state has its own VR system, so each state has a slightly different process. For more information, check out the glossary of terms and links to additional resources at the end of this document.

Self-Determination for Deaf Youth  ( English | Spanish )

Being self-determined means acting or causing things to happen as you set and work toward goals in your life. People who have stronger self-determination are able to make their own choices, manage their time, solve problems, advocate for themselves, set goals, and make plans to reach these goals. Young people with disabilities must also be aware of their rights, responsibilities, and protections under the law. This resource will support the development of basic knowledge, skills, and abilities that are essential to self-determination.

Take the survey now!

What is Self-Determination?

Self-determination is about acting or causing things to happen in your life so that you can reach your goals. There are three parts to it: decide, act, and believe.

People who are self-determined are good problem solvers because they figure out how to reach goals at school, work, and home, even when they run into problems.

Setting and making plans to achieve self-determination goals needs to be part of deaf students’ transition planning in high school, which should include the use of well-designed and accessible assessments.


Measuring Self-Determination: The Self-Determination Inventory

The National Deaf Center collaborated with Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities to translate the Self-Determination Inventory: Student Report (SDI:SR) from English to American Sign Language (ASL). 

This online assessment asks about how youth feel about their ability to be self-determined: to make choices, set and go after goals, and make decisions. Designed for youth between the ages of 13 and 22, it takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. To take the SDI:SR in ASL, click on ‘American Sign Language’ and “One-time SDI for Students”, enter your first and last name and click “begin the SDI:SR.” 

After completing the SDI:SR, students will receive a student report with their score, along with an ASL video that explains what the report means. Students can share this report with their families, teachers, and vocational rehabilitation counselors, to help develop plans for strengthening self-determination. Families and professionals can use this report guide to work together on setting goals and developing plans.


Using the Student Report in Transition Planning

Students can work with their families, teachers, or vocational rehabilitation counselors by using the Choose Your Future! Activity Kit to develop a detailed plan for reaching goals that are aligned with their personal preferences. These goals can then be integrated in transition planning, like individualized education plans (IEPs), vocational rehabilitation meetings, and pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS). 

Deafverse is a free online game that gives deaf youth a safe space to practice applying self-determination skills at home, in school, and in the community. Additional expansion activities are also available in downloadable Strategy Guides.  

Transition is the process all students go through as they move from a high school setting to what lies beyond. Transition programs assist students and their parents as they plan for life after high school in a proactive and coordinated way. An effective transition program provides students with the tools and the confidence to assume responsibility for their educational and employment decisions as they move into adulthood.

Transition planning is essential for deaf students, who experience unique educational and life challenges as a result of their hearing loss, such as communication barriers, lack of effective accommodations, and intentional and unintentional discrimination.

Learn more

 
Training programs, colleges and universities are required by federal and state laws to make their campuses and services accessible to people with disabilities.


Effective communication is an important part of the ADA. This means training programs, colleges and universities need to provide appropriate accommodations such as sign language interpreters, speech-to-text services, captioned media, assistive listening devices, or others to ensure effective communication.

 

Applying to the DSS Office

 

Types of Accommodations

Before meeting with the DSS office, have an idea of the accommodations you would like to request. Some commonly used accommodations by deaf students include, but are not limited to:

 

Meeting with the DSS Office

  • Have copies of your disability documentation, such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), 504 Plan or medical records from a provider such as an audiogram.

  • Be prepared to share information about how your disability impacts access to learning and your experience with using different accommodations. See this checklist and sample questions to help guide you and the DSS office in reviewing accommodation options in a variety of settings.

  • Consider how accommodations may vary for you. For example, accommodations in an online class may be different from when meeting face-to-face. You may also want to discuss what type of accommodations will be the best fit based on the information being shared, like for complex/technical courses.

  • Have a list of questions ready, such as:

    • Does the school or program have experience providing the accommodations you are requesting?

    • What should you do if you need to cancel services for a class?

    • How do you request services for outside class activities and events?

    • What if your service provider does not show up for class?

    • Will the service provider(s) be consistent for each class?

Be flexible and try a combination of accommodations to find the best fit, depending on the class size, content being provided and teaching methods. For example, some students prefer to use speech-to-text services for large lecture halls and then sign language interpreters for smaller group discussions.


Are accommodations only for my classes?


Accommodations are not limited to the classroom. You can request accommodations for activities on-campus, such as tutoring sessions, meeting with financial aid, student health services (including mental health), study abroad programs, internships, athletic programs, student programming and extracurricular activities like sororities/fraternities. Check with your disability services office what the procedure is for requesting accommodations for these types of activities.

 
  • What if I don’t get the accommodations I need?


Review the school’s policy on how to file a complaint


Collect all the information


 
FAQ: Who pays for accommodations? Read full video description

Additional advocacy support


Additional Student Resources