In 2014, The United States Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities determined an investment in self-advocacy was a priority for their work. As a result, grants were offered to form regional collaborations throughout the country in order to support and learn from each other to support the growth of self-advocacy. The University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development (UCEDD) has a long history of supporting self-advocacy and applied for one of these grants to support the development of self-advocacy in the Midwest.
Leaders from the self-advocacy movements in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri came together and became a regional network we named the Heartland Self-advocacy Resource Network (HSRN). Self-advocate leaders, advisers, and support people came together to determine how we could best learn from each other and work together. We participated in annual in-person meetings together as well as attended and presented at each other’s statewide self-advocacy conferences. Through these in-person meetings, we realized how common our organizational challenges were, and that we could help each other think through new approaches given to us from our new friends from the states around us.
Over the three years of our partnership, opportunities expanded for the lives of people and their families with disabilities in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, especially in regard to leadership experience and opportunities. Self-advocacy is the foundation for an understanding of the rights and values of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In our regional network there is new awareness of what is possible for individuals and families and they know where to go to learn about these opportunities.