Self-Advocacy: Speaking Up & Standing Out

LIFEPlan Member Joseph Roche Advocates for Himself

Emily Brunelle knew Joe long before she started working with LIFEPlan. She first met him at Camp Wilton many years ago and remembers being impressed by Joe’s sense of humor and his sparkling personality. Now as his Care Manager, Emily wants to highlight his remarkable self-advocacy skills.  

Now in his thirties, Joe lives in the Capital Region and participates in a day program twice a week. He recently took it upon himself to get a job at Cumberland Farms which Emily thought was awesome but not surprising.  

Joe has always been a positive, proactive person and loves being social. What he likes best is making people laugh. This is a perfect job for him.The store is close enough to Joe’s family home that he can ride his bike to work which helps him feel independent.

When asked what he plans to do with his first paycheck, Joe said,

I plan to pay my dad back for some of the things I owe him, but also start saving to have a place of my own someday.

Joe still lives at home with his family but hopes to live in a supported apartment in his community. Emily has requested a placement from OPWDD, but Joe’s application was denied due to low priority. Joe’s OK with this for now because, like so many others during the pandemic, he has been struggling to find steady community habilitation staff that can help him work on critical daily living skills.  

Staff issues have been challenging for so many people. Joe had DSP staff start, then drift away after a few days, making it hard for him and others to work on their goals and get back into the community.

In the meantime, Joe is active with the Saratoga Bridges Self Advocates committee and looks forward to being able to do public speaking at local community events again which have been suspended due to the pandemic. Educating people about disabilities is part of his personal journey and an important step in acceptance and inclusion.  

Growing up in Jersey City, NJ, I had no knowledge of what Self-Advocacy was, let alone what it meant to be a self-advocate with a developmental/intellectual disability.

He “found his voice” in New York State and takes pride in what he has accomplished with the support the Bridges program, self-advocacy training and his Care Manager Emily’s guidance.  

Joe says his dream is “to one day be the voice of people with disabilities and making a difference.” We have no doubt that Joe is well on his way to achieving his goal. 

Excerpt from Joe’s Speech

About 6-7 months into my involvement with Saratoga Bridges, I spoke with a gentleman who runs a Self-Advocacy training program which allows individuals such as myself and so many others with disabilities a platform to speak on our own behalf and make our voices heard.

As my involvement with Bridges is increasing, so is my interest in Self Advocacy and becoming a successful self-advocate. As an individual receiving services through this agency, my perception of Self-Advocacy is basically constructing your identity, and asserting/exploring yourself, which is important because it’s linked directly to building confidence and self-esteem.

Furthermore, it’s equally important to speak about your life and experiences, so that who you are gets validated by others. Having this mindset can be very instrumental in helping others develop self-esteem, confidence, and pride in their own identities. As a Self-Advocate, it is my dream to one day be the voice of people with disabilities and making a difference.