Disability advocacy is acting, speaking or writing to promote, protect and defend the human rights of people with disability.

Disability includes impairments of physical, sensory or mental functions which may affect undertaking activities or participating in community life. It may be caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease. A disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, lifelong or acquired, visible or invisible.1

Disability advocates may advocate for themselves, another person, or a group of people with disability. They work through issues that have an adverse impact on rights for an individual or group, or on a society-wide level. Advocates may be paid or operate on a voluntary basis.

Types of disability advocacy commonly referred to are:

  • Self advocacy – undertaken by someone with disability who speaks up and represents themselves. Support and training for self-advocacy is available through community-based groups.
  • Individual advocacy – a one-on-one approach, undertaken by a professional advocate, relative, friend or volunteer, to prevent or address instances of unfair treatment or abuse.
  • Group advocacy – involves advocating for a group of people with disability, such as a group of people living in shared accommodation.
  • Citizen advocacy – where community volunteers advocate for a person with a disability, such as an intellectual disability, over the long-term, supported by a Citizen Advocacy organization.
  • Systemic advocacy – involves working for long-term social changes to ensure the collective rights and interests of people with disability are served through legislation, policies and practices.
  • Legal advocacy – where a lawyer provides legal representation in the justice system, pursues positive changes to legislation, or gives legal advice to people with disability about discrimination and human rights.


 Video provided by the Australian Government Department of Social Services


1 Disability Discrimination Act 1992, (Cth)