Adding Social Activism to Your Advocacy Plan

A women using a wheelchair speaks into a microphone in front of a TV camera.
MIUSA alumna, Jenny Chinchilla of El Salvador
It’s not only laws that make change but sometimes we need social activism through theater, writing, comedy, and other means to start the social change that then makes laws more able to be implemented and relevant to society.

How do you get disability rights laws enforced in a country where other laws are equally not enforced? This is a central topic for the global disability rights movement in the 21st century as many countries lack enforcement of laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities or lack disability-related laws all together. According to the United Nations, 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws.

Examining how other laws have been successfully implemented may be a good starting point. Although it may not always be possible to replicate the enforcement efforts used with other laws, there are usually a few lessons to be learned.

Using powerful facts can also be a good strategy to reach a wide audience. Some examples include:

  • People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world making up around 15% of the world’s population, or an estimated 1 billion people;
  • It is the only minority group that anyone can join at any given time through acquiring or aging into disability.

While this method helps disability to be perceived as applicable to more people, it does not provide a real-life example of what it is like to live with a disability.

Shedding light on the inequities that people with disabilities face can be crucial to bring a wider understanding of the importance of the law. Although non-disabled citizens may be unaware of the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities on a large scale, they can become good allies for disability advocacy. Using social activism can be an effective way to tap into this resource and bring greater visibility to your cause in the public sphere.


Recently we’ve come across several examples of how social activism is bringing disability rights issues to the public’s attention. What are some other notable examples that we can add to our list?

  • In Mexico, comedians use role playing to deliver a serious civic message on the metro.
  • In Russia, a hologram of a wheelchair user appears to tell a strong message to non-disabled people trying to park in a space designated for people with disabilities.
  • In Brazil, a car without a disability placard is covered with sticky notes when it is parked is a space marked for disabled individuals.

See Related Links below to view and read the media about what happened in Mexico, Russia, and Brazil.

Citation: UN source