Actioning Advocacy – Best Practice Insights with Joan Carthy from IWA

July 26 2022


Joan Carthy, National Advocacy Manager with the Irish Wheelchair Association shares her perspective and best practice on advocacy in todays’ climate.

What were the major advocacy challenges/obstacles you had to overcome and how did you do it? 

The main challenge in advocacy work is getting the right people to really hear what you are saying, getting them to really understand the issue and its impact so that they feel passionate enough to lend their support to influence change. A really important part of advocacy is to build relationships with people who can support your cause and those who can influence change. Another challenge is, it can also be difficult getting organisations to come together with one voice and to realise we are better together then separate and there is a place for all types of organisations to work together to make sure that the many voices of people with disabilities are heard


What are the key learnings from your experience which could support others in their self-advocacy efforts ?

From my experience some of the key findings are being clear and consistent in your messaging as an individual or a group.  Researching to see if any other work on the issues as been carried out and really understand your issue. 


What is the biggest misunderstanding /concern which organisations have about self-advocacy? 

One of the biggest assumptions that people and organisations can have is thinking, because we talk about it all the time people should know, because we ran a campaign last year everyone should understand.  Advocacy is about persistence, telling a story over and over again and finding new ways of telling that story and finding new people that will not only listen but will act on your asks



What are the key skills people need to apply or grow in order to advocate for change?

Believing in yourself and believing in your “RIGHTS” some people may think this is easy but for many it is something that needs to be built on.  Advocacy can start at home, making sure your voice is being heard, in college, in a job or even within a group of friends, we all need to be heard. Start with a small goal which will help build your confidence but also build your network of supporters.


What is your view on the future of advocacy ?

I feel the future of advocacy is in very strong safe hands. There are many great young people who have a rights based approach in their thinking and are not afraid to speak up. Social media has definitely changed the way we get our message out to a wider audience so bringing people along the journey is much more accessible and helps bring people together in cause that may not have reached previously.  There is a part of me that feels let down that the next generation has to continue to fight for their rights to live as equal to their peers and to just get on with living   


What encouragement would you give to those thinking of engaging more in self advocacy?

Getting involved in advocacy is very rewarding work as you get to meet some interesting people, those who are struggling with an issue and those who will support you on your journey.  It is a great feeling when you know you have changed someone’s opinion on an issue. To watch some go from being your opposition to your supporter and getting something over the line no matter how small, all change is significant