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November 30, 2021From A DRP Advocate

We All Need to Participate in Disability Advocacy

We All Need to Participate in Disability Advocacy

Brynne Madway


Black and White Photo of Brynne MadwayMany people with disabilities feel like their voices are not enough to play a role in advocating for and with the disability community, but everyone has something to give. When it comes to this work, there are no experiences too small to be of service. I came to disability advocacy from a very young age. In high school, I found myself advocating for the supports I needed while there and developed my voice enough to also speak up for myself in college and law school. During my law school career, in particular, I creatively navigated and developed accommodations that would serve me and other students with disabilities so we could all make the most of our education. These experiences eventually led me to my work at Disability Rights Pennsylvania where I feel honored to advocate for members of the disability community as a career.

Disability Rights Pennsylvania is a very special place. I enjoy coming to work every day because the advocacy we are involved in often creates systemic changes for the community leading to autonomy and inclusive futures. We investigate claims of abuse and neglect, make sure that disabled workers have reasonable accommodations, access to healthcare, and many more things—we even answer people’s questions on the spot through our live-intake line. It’s an amazing feeling to know what we do changes people’s lived conditions for the better and to know that I am part of an agency that listens to and amplifies the voices of the disability community. You can call us and we answer, we listen, we advocate.

On one particular Friday morning, I answered a live intake call of a woman who, in a quest for help, had called a dozen organizations and had left just as many voicemails. We were organization 13. She anticipated that her call to DRP would result in the same, but when she called, she talked to me—a human ready to help. She expressed to me how empowering it was to finally speak to someone and not dread going through the entire weekend with unanswered questions. By the end of the call, we were both in tears, not necessarily because of the advice I had given, but because someone had finally listened and heard what she had to say.

In working with the mental health community specifically, I have come to realize that it can be a struggle to conclude that you may need assistance. Past experiences have often told us that people do not believe us, that there will be no one to answer our call, or that we can do it alone, but advocacy for yourself requires interdependence and there is no shame in reaching out for help.

At the heart of our work, there are people. People invested in making Pennsylvania better for the disability community, in amplifying their voices, and in providing the resources and tools needed to feel empowered. Whether a person with a disability or not, contributing to the work of Disability Rights Pennsylvania means strengthening communities across the state. Communities of people who, when they are ready to call for assistance will be met with a human like me on the other end of the line waiting to hear their story. You can contribute to work just like mine by clicking the link below.

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