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Self-Advocacy Terms and Descriptions

As a young adult with a disability, you will hear words or phrases during the transition to postsecondary education and employment that may be new or confusing. Click the links in the story below to read a simple description of each of the terms that will be important to understand as you advocate for yourself in school, on the job and in the community.

Meet Alejandra: Successful Self-Advocate

Happy 18th Birthday, Alejandra!  Along with birthday cards from friends and family, Alejandra received a reminder letter from her school about a transfer of rights from her parents to Alejandra. She and her mother, Salma, had received a similar letter when Alejandra turned 17, explaining the transfer of rights when Alejandra turned 18, the age of majority in her state. As a legal adult, Alejandra will now be expected to make all of her own decisions at school and on her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Alejandra was nervous and excited at the same time. She’s been wanting to be more independent and responsible for her own life, especially as she transitions into adulthood. Salma had considered becoming her daughter’s legal guardian, but she and Alejandra decided that Alejandra is able to make her own decisions with the support of the people around her that love her and know her best.

Alejandra has a disability and has had an IEP since she was in second grade. She has a visual impairment where she can see shapes and light, but objects appear very blurry. Alejandra does well in school with help from supportive teachers and the accommodations on her IEP.  

When Alejandra began high school, she struggled to keep up with the increase in class reading requirements and fell behind during her freshman and sophomore years. Alejandra took summer school classes to get back on track. At the beginning of junior year, Alejandra’s teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired shared some ideas for ways to use assistive technology to help keep up with her reading, including a screen reader and text-to-speech software. Alejandra is on track to graduate in June!

Last summer, Alejandra got her first job, working part time at a local grocery store. You can’t tell by looking at Alejandra that she has a visual impairment, but Alejandra knew that she would need some accommodations at work to be successful, so she decided to talk to her manager. Alejandra disclosed that she had a disability and described what she needed to be successful on the job: a screen reader and training materials in an electronic format. Alejandra is now one of the top employees, due to her confidence, dedication, and ability to connect with customers. 

After high school, Alejandra plans to attend her state university. She visited the disability services office while she was touring the college to make sure she could continue to receive the accommodations she needed. Once again, she chose to disclose her disability. This time, the college asked to see documentation of her visual impairment. Alejandra and the disability services staff had a great conversation figuring out the specific accommodations Alejandra will need in order to access the social work program she hopes to enroll in, and to meet the degree requirements.

With self-determination and knowledge of her strengths and needs, Alejandra has a plan for her future that looks bright and promising. She advocates for herself and knows that she will do whatever it takes to meet her goal of becoming a School Social Worker so she can help others achieve their dreams, too!

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