Support Systems


A Support System is a network of people in a person’s life that supports them.

We believe that it is important that our support systems practice:
– direct communication
– supporting our self determination
– working to build our leadership skills
– interdependence [everyone working together because we all depend on each other]

1. Creating Collective Access was a project led by disability activists who traveled to Detroit every summer since 2009. They traveled there for the United States Social Forum, a gathering with over 18,000+ activists. They knew that they were not going to be able to navigate the Social Forum by themselves because it was so big and inaccessible. They put a message about working together. Thirty people (who did not know each other) came together that week to create a support system to meet each others access needs while in Detroit. three people working together to keep a falling wall up

2. New Conversations is an online resource center about ways to communicate more creatively, compassionately, and successfully. This website has free, downloadable resources about how to communicate effectively.

3. Writing SMART Goals is an article that explains how to set goals. Once your goals are set, your support system can support you in reaching them.SMART goals stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. It is helpful to think about these five things when creating goals. This Goal Setting Guide has questions you can think about when creating goals for yourself.

4. Natural Supports is another name for people it your life who support you and don’t get paid. The Waisman Center is a facility in Michigan that creates resources for people with developmental disabilities. On their website, they have a list of resources about how to find and develop natural supports.

5.  Inclusive Events Seminars Guide  As universities become increasingly diverse, it is important for individuals and groups planning events to consider how they can make their events accessible and engaging to a broad audience. This audience includes people with a wide array of backgrounds and social identities, includes those based upon race, ethnicity, language, country of origin, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, ability, class, age, etc. In order to plan events that are inclusive of the growing diversity of students in higher education, it is necessary to go beyond simply accommodating or acknowledging people’s differences, and instead, to create events that are universally designed—accessible to everyone.


Guardianship means having legal power over another person. Often times our parents think the best way to keep us safe is to have guardianship over us after we become adults but it can lead to an abuse of rights. Here are some resources that offer some other choices besides having guardianship over someone. cartoon picture of two deaf women signing to each other

1. Alternatives to Guardianship (.pdf) is 2-page document outlining some alternatives to guardianship. This document is created by Self Determination for Texas.

2. Alternatives to Guardianship is an article written by Marsha Katz, a long time disability activist. In it, she writes about the realities and myths about guardianship. She gives good advice about how youth can partner with others exercise power.

3. Dohn Says is an article from Mouth Magazine. It is an interview with a well-known advocate, Dohn Hoyle. In the interview Dohn explains how having guardianship over an adult can violate that person’s basic human rights and should only be considered as a last resort option.


Often times, disabled youth have people in their lives who are paid to support them. This might be a personal care attendant, a resource person, or others.

1. Living on My Own, Away From Home, Having to Do My Laundry All Alone is an article by the Heath Resource Center. It talks about all the things that have to be thought about when moving from home. It includes a long list of things to think about such as finding, hiring, and managing paid supports. a woman pushing a man in a wheelchair

2. Personal Care Attendant Services: A Handbook for Accessing and Using PCA Services (.pdf) is a 50+ page guide. It is created by the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities. It is very thorough.

3. Making the Move to Managing Your Own Personal Assistance Services (PAS): A Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood is a booklet created by the National Collaborative of Workforce and Disability. It is about managing your personal assistance services. It is designed for youth who are transitioning to adulthood. You can download the booklet at the website below. NCWD also has other resources for youth with disabilities on their website.


Mentoring is when someone with a lot of knowledge and/or experience in an area acts as a coach and advisor to someone who wants to learn more about that area. There are all kind of different mentorship relationships. Somtimes mentors can teach people about a career or job. Adults with disabilities are often mentors to young people with disabilities.

1. Youth with Disabilities and Mentorship is a short article that explains the benefits and different kinds of mentorship for youth with disabilities.

2. Disability Mentoring Day is hosted by the American Association of People with Disabilities. Young people with disabilities are matched with people who have jobs in career that they are interested in. Young people shadow a person working for the day.