Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Training persons with intellectual disabilities to be self-advocates

FEPAPDEM – an Ecuadorian NGO that promotes inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities – has created a self-representation training programme. Facilitators learn to support and train self-advocates and leaders with intellectual disabilities on rights, participation, supported decision-making, and development of expression. The self-advocates then decide what matters are important to them, which they wish to pursue, and in what way. To date, some 400 self-advocates have been trained and have together created a conference on good practices, carried out public advocacy, and expressed their needs to the government.

“Recovering the voice and the direct representation of the person with intellectual disability has allowed the community of self-advocates of Ecuador to be heard by the state and recover their self-esteem.”

About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Promotion of self-determination of persons with intellectual disability
of Implementation


  • Some 100 facilitators were trained between 2014 and 2018.
  • In 2015 the first group of self-advocates organized a conference on best practices, with 50 self-advocates from six countries attending.


Persons with intellectual disabilities often have decisions made for them by family members or professionals, meaning their own voices are not heard in public or political life.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACTParticipants proudly showing their certificates.

FEPAPDEM provides a six-month training programme for facilitators and support professionals to prepare them to teach persons with intellectual disabilities to be self-advocates. The self-advocates receive guidance on how to express their own opinions in areas that are important to them in public and political life. Self-advocacy candidates are identified via initial training sessions with partners of FEPAPDEM. Those who stand out are selected to receive further training.

Training of self-advocates takes an average of ten months and covers human rights, participation mechanisms, supported decision-making, and development of expressive ability, with the help of manuals and group teaching. Over 400 persons with intellectual disabilities and 100 facilitators undertook the training between 2014 and 2018. In 2015 the first group of trained self-advocates organized a conference on good practices, which included 50 self-advocates and speakers from Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and the United States. These self-advocates also created a national association of self-advocates in which all members, including the board of directors, are persons with intellectual disabilities.


The project is funded largely by the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion at a cost of $120,000 between 2014 and 2017, and FEPAPEM has contributed $12,000 per year.

Initially, the training was provided only to professionals and persons with intellectual disabilities who belonged to member associations of FEPAPDEM. As of 2018, however, the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion is planning to implement the training through its day-care, home-care, and community-care services.

The project has been presented at several international forums, and its replication in other countries would be relatively simple given the established virtual training modules and guides, though translation from Spanish may be necessary.


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