Disability Advocacy Certificate Program

To complement the internship program, AAPD interns participate in the Disability Advocacy Certificate Program. They gain knowledge and strategies to advocate for the disability community in their school, home state, and nationally. 


group of 21 people on zoom screen all smiling at the camera

The AAPD Disability Advocacy Certificate Program was established in 2018 for participants of the Summer Internship Program. 

During the Summer, interns complete their internships Monday to Thursday and participate in a Disability Advocacy Certificate Program course weekly on Fridays for four (4) hours. During the fall, interns participate in the certificate program bi-weekly for 3 hours. The Disability Advocacy Certificate Program is only available as a program for participants in AAPD’s Internship Program.

The Certificate Program prepares participants to be knowledgeable and effective advocates for the disability community. The focus is on preparing interns to use their own story to advocate in their own community, university, state, and on the national level. Through discussions with experts, interns will learn to apply their strengths and skills to advocate effectively to influence change. Interns will become familiar with the history of the disability community and its impact on the present day.

    The AAPD Disability Advocacy Certificate Program is currently only available for people who are participating in the AAPD Summer Internship Program. Interns that participate in the Disability Advocacy Certificate Program will be able to:

    Identify a variety of advocacy strategies and tactics to address issues the disability community faces

    Communicate their story on issues across multiple mediums

    Describe approaches to developing relationships and coalitions.


    Apply an intersectional lens to their advocacy.

    Understand their role and responsibility in the collective disability rights movement.

    2023 Course Topics
    • Introduction to Organizing, Advocacy, and Policy
    • How to Tell Your Story
    • Levels of Advocacy: Individual & Self Advocacy
    • Levels of Advocacy: Systems Advocacy
    • Exploring Different Tactics: Direct Action, Legal, Legislative, Administrative, 
    • Exploring Different Tactics: Media/Education, Digital, Artistic
    • Coalition and Power Building 
    • Applying an Intersectional Lens to Your Advocacy
    Past Disability Advocacy Certificate Program Speakers

    We are so grateful to invite disability leaders as presenters and panelists during the Disability Advocacy Certificate Program. Some past speakers include:

    • Rosemary McDonnell-Horita, LaVant Consulting
    • Patrick Cokley, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    • Dustin Gibson, PeoplesHub
    • Mia Ives-Rublee, Center for American Progress- Disability Justice Initiative
    • Elijah Armstrong, Equal Opportunity Students
    • Britney Wilson, NYU Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic
    • Anita Cameron, Disability Rights Advocate
    • Patrice Strahan. Disability Justice Culture Club
    • Teresa Nguyen, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy
    • Liz Weintraub, Association of University Centers on Disabilities
    • Ricardo Thornton, DC Developmental Disabilities Council
    • Amber Smock, Access Living
    • Sandy Ho, Borealis Philanthropy 
    • Stephanie Kaufman-Mthimkhulu, Project LETS
    • Rabia Belt, Stanford Law School
    • And many more…
    Disability Advocacy Certificate Program Assignments

    During the Certificate Program,, AAPD interns will complete several assignments to apply and process what they learned with an emphasis on advocacy through storytelling. Past assignments have included government elected official visits, policy memos, blogs about their visits, Portrait of Empowerments, and the final group advocacy project.

    Elected Official Visits

    In order to provide an activity where interns could practice advocating for disability issues to different audiences, interns identify an issue or legislation impacting people with disabilities and an elected official who could respond to their concerns. Interns meet with elected officials on the local, state, and national levels.

    One-Pager Handout/Policy Memo 

    Interns apply their learning about policy advocacy through storytelling and communication by writing a policy memo on an issue or legislation of their choice. It is an opportunity to practice a clear and concise way to convey their research and information about a particular issue or legislation to their elected official.

    Final Projects

    For their final project, interns collaborate in groups on advocacy plans to address an issue impacting the disability community. The advocacy plans include the history of the issue, action steps, materials related to their action steps, and a launch plan. During the last week of class, the intern groups present their plans to a wide audience including AAPD staff and Board Members, sponsors, mentors, and internship supervisors. 

    Portraits of Empowerment Series

    As part of the Disability Advocacy Certificate Program, interns practiced using social media and storytelling for advocacy. Interns developed their stories in a compelling way for social media platforms in response to guided prompts from AAPD. These stories highlight the AAPD intern’s experiences and were also shared on AAPD’s social media.

    2022 Portraits of Empowerment

    The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is proud to present our 2022 Portrait of Empowerment seri...

    2021 Portraits of Empowerment

    The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is proud to present our 2021 Portrait of Empowerment seri...

    2020 Portraits of Empowerment

    AAPD is proud to present our 2020 Portraits of Empowerment, featuring our selected 2020 Disability Advocacy Certifica...