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Self-Advocacy and Ally-Advocacy for Disability Justice: Organisational, Psychosocial, and Political Resources


Henry McCarthy

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, US
About Henry

Henry McCarthy spent his career, from summer jobs as a teenager to his current role as Professor Emeritus, immersed in disability studies and rehabilitation counseling/psychology. He teaches, advocates, researches and counsels in the U.S.A., as well as in several countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe. He currently consults on disability issues and volunteers for various community, cultural, peace and social justice organisations. 

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The world of today sees more persistent, collective work of marginalised people resisting structural oppression rooted in racism and misogyny through newly-organised multinational movements like Black Lives Matter, #IamSpeaking, and Me Too. This has led to a rapid rise in public consciousness and activism about social injustices across many sectors of society. Ableism and other types of discrimination in education, employment and community-living experienced by people with a disability have both similarities to, and differences from, the indignity and impact of racism and misogyny. The activist disability community is working hard to have their advocacy agendas gain more public awareness and support. The common ground among all oppressed groups is their demand to have their human rights honoured. This requires two societal value shifts: (1) listening to voices outside the dominant culture and power structures through the involvement of insiders, based on their lived experience as members of the marginalised groups, and (2) collaborative advocacy to achieve milestones on their journey towards social justice.

Applying these principles, this article aims to elevate and amplify the historical and current activities of self-advocates from the disability community to affirm and secure their human rights. The article provides explanations and examples of: (1) the complexities of disability-based discrimination; (2) political activism by the disability rights and independent living movements in the United States; (3) the psychosocial dimensions of embracing disability identity, culture, and pride; and (4) various outstanding consumer-driven artistic and organisational resources that are shaping the evolution of equal opportunity and disability justice.

How to Cite: McCarthy, H., 2021. Self-Advocacy and Ally-Advocacy for Disability Justice: Organisational, Psychosocial, and Political Resources. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 32(2), pp.160–178. DOI:
Published on 29 Jul 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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