Throughout the 15 for 15 campaign, we’ve described how DRNC advances and defends the rights of people with disabilities using a variety of tools, including legal advocacy, investigations, monitoring, and litigation. DRNC has another strong tool – empowering disabled people for self-advocacy by providing information they need to protect their rights.

Often, people only need to access the right information, and learn how to use it. Today’s feature is about the “do-it-yourself” power of self-advocacy and “how-to” strategies. Our goal is to make it easy for you to find the information you need quickly, equip you with the knowledge to make an informed decision, and provide an extra layer of support when you need to take action.

DRNC helps people gain the confidence to act.

It’s important to know about the team that provides self-advocacy services. Our team is cross-trained to ensure this critical level of assistance is effective. Because people often reach out to DRNC during a crisis – for example, a deadline is pending, services are being slashed, or someone is being discriminated against – our staff is trained in trauma-informed approaches, although we are not clinicians or first responders.

To better understand DRNC’s work, it’s helpful to take a look at the types of services we provide.

Information and Referral (I&R)

This is the most popular level of service DRNC provides. Generally, assistance is provided during a short telephone call, an in-person meeting, or through email and mailings of letters, brochures, and/or informational pamphlets. These services generally take less than one hour. The information provided may be about DRNC’s services, or about community resources with partner agencies. I&R does not involve direct advocacy intervention by staff or follow-up.

A good place to start when learning how to advocate for yourself is DRNC’s resource page. There, you can find information on a variety of topics like:

Self-advocacy assistance

Self-advocacy assistance is more detailed, involving one of our attorneys or advocates to provide advice or counseling in self-advocacy steps, brief research, or a letter informing others of your rights.  This level of assistance may involve reviewing information and/or preparing documentation. It also includes providing information and other self-help materials. Like I&R, these services are designed to best equip a disabled person with the tools needed to act on their own behalf.

Technical Assistance (TA)

DRNC staff provide TA services to attorneys, social workers, advocates, and other organizations who are working with disabled people. The information provided relates to an area of the law in which DRNC has expertise. Similar to self-advocacy assistance, DRNC provides the information needed for disabled people to make an informed decision, with limited DRNC action on the individual’s behalf. DRNC supports self-determination and encourages advocates and family members to work alongside people with disabilities to determine what steps are needed to ensure their rights are protected.

Other Types of DRNC Services

A few of these may sound familiar. Through our 15 for 15 campaign, we’ve highlighted other ways DRNC serves as North Carolina’s Protection and Advocacy agency. In addition to I&R, we provide free legal services through:

DRNC Advocacy Targets

DRNC services are provided to the community at no cost. We are primarily funded through federal grants. Private grants and personal donations help expand our capacity.  Using our limited resources, DRNC works with the legal community to identify legal problems that are most pressing, widespread, or concerns no one else is equipped to address. Then, we develop Advocacy Targets to address those problems through our legal teams.

Unfortunately, that means there are certain issues we cannot assist with due to limited staff and funding. However, by working in collaboration with community partner organizations, our team can refer you to additional community resources established to meet your needs.

Importantly, you have the opportunity along with other stakeholders in our disability community to tell us what legal issues DRNC should focus on that would help you the most. Each year, we publish a survey and ask people to share what goals are most important to you, and other information you would like us to consider.

Take the 5-minute survey to inform our 2023 Advocacy Targets

A Chance to Say Thank you!

Of course, we could not defend and advance the legal rights of people with disabilities without the tireless work of our staff, our dedicated board of directors, mental health (PAIMI) advisory council  and community stakeholders. If you or someone you know wants to learn how to become a better advocate for people with disabilities, be sure to follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to review our most up-to-date information as soon as it’s released!

Note: If you are experiencing a medical emergency, contact 911. To report abuse or neglect, apply for legal help, or for all other questions, you can call DRNC at (919)-856-2195 or contact DRNC online.