Liz Talks about Advocacy Then and Now

When my coworker, Denise Rozell, asked me to help her on the AUCD Think College team, I was thrilled. Because it was personal to me.  

Growing Up 

Ever since I was little, my family always treated me as an equal. I sat at the dinner table. I did family chores. I went to the same kind of schools I went on family trips just like the rest of the family. So, when my three older sisters were looking at colleges, I just assumed that I could go to college when it was my turn.  

I asked my parents, “What about me?” My parents said, “What about you?” I replied, “What about me going to college?” They said, “we never thought about you going because of your disabilities. We’ll figure out what you can do later.” 

I never thought again about going to college until a few years ago. I thought people like me could never go to college. Now it’s 2023 and there are over 300 colleges where students with intellectual disabilities can go and take classes and participate in campus life, just like other students.  

What I Do Now 

Almost every day, I advocate for myself or others on disability policies. Once I learned how to advocate for myself, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I teach others how to advocate for themselves so that in the future, others can also advocate.”  

My AUCD coworkers and I thought it might be a good idea to teach students how to advocate for things that impact their lives, like education, health care, accessibility, and more. It is important that people with disabilities know how to advocate for themselves.  

That’s why we started Think College Policy Advocates with Think College. In November, I am excited we are bringing our fifth group of students to Washington, DC to learn how to advocate for themselves to their senators and representatives.  

I also thought it might be helpful for students to keep on practicing their self-advocacy skills throughout the year. So again, with the support from Denise and the Think College team, I started a student group that is called Emerging Advocates Group. We meet online and share ideas and learn together how to advocate for ourselves.  

The Future 

Think College started a new campaign about people with disabilities so that they can go to college just like anyone else. It is called “Think Higher. Think College.” I got all excited when I heard about this campaign. 

I think their new video is awesome! You can watch it by clicking here. The best part of the video is the people with disabilities are talking about why going to college is great. My friend Martha Hayworth narrates the video. She goes to college at George Tech. 

I believe that college should be for everyone. I think colleges should be willing to see what a person can do, rather than what a person can’t do… and be open to all possibilities.  

I don’t think I can blame my parents for not helping me go to college in the 1980s. Very few people with intellectual disabilities were going to college at that time. I’m glad that in 2023 there are more possibilities, so that All means All, and it truly means that. 

About the post author: Liz Weintraub has a long history of leadership in self advocacy, and has held many board and advisory positions at state and national organizations. She is a full time member of the AUCD's policy team and also the host of Tuesdays With Liz: Disability Policy For All, where she attempts to make polices in accessible language so policy is accessible to all.