The National Self-Advocacy Project is a unique collaboration between Israel Elwyn (IE) and Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS) designed to give people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to have their voices heard, to organize themselves and to work to advance their own rights. Over the last two years, with the generous support and partnership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and The Ruderman Family Foundation, BIS and IE have successfully begun to help foster a network of self-advocacy groups for people with intellectual disabilities in Israel.
Groups have been established in cities in various parts of Israel. Professional staff from Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn provide the supports needed to help individuals with disabilities operate the program themselves . Each self-advocacy group is led by a member of the group with intellectual disabilities and is supported by a person without disabilities who is there to provide assistance and guidance as necessary.
As the number of groups grows, it becomes increasingly important for them to work together on a regional and national basis. These joint efforts will enable them to act effectively on regional and national issues that affect all people with intellectual disabilities and will encourage them to branch out from working only on very specific local issues to wider issues that will have a greater impact.
National conferences are held with the participation of the self-advocacy groups. The conferences are designed in collaboration with the leaders of each group (who themselves have intellectual disabilities), who have participated in the group leaders’ course. The group leaders take an active role in planning the conference and implementing it, from operating the registration tables to organizing and guiding the discussion groups.