June 2021, Vol. 7, No. 4
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers



1. authority or power given to someone to do something.
2. the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.

As part of the transition from school to adult life, youth and young adults with disabilities will learn skills to change their own lives and the world around them. From powerful social media movements, to political organizing, to protesting on the ground, the collective voice of young people engaged in their own lives has power.

A precursor to youth engagement is youth empowerment. When youth are empowered, they have the skills, critical awareness, and opportunities to positively impact their own lives and their communities.

To truly empower youth, adults must be intentional about creating systems and opportunities that:
  • Include youth in decision-making.
  • Honor the youth voice.
  • Understand and implement their honest opinions and ideas.
  • Willingly share adult power and privilege in order to make the community a better place.


Brave Starts Here

“You are the one who decides what defines you…”
-  Lizzie Velasquez

Part of empowerment is owning your own strengths and recognizing your limitations, without letting them limit you. In this TEDx Talk, Lizzie Velasquez talks about the struggles she faced growing up with a rare disability, especially in school and among her peers. Bullying shaped the way she lives her life, but not in a negative way.


Going Up? Be Ready with Your Elevator Pitch

You are alone in the elevator when the door opens and in walks the CEO of your company. Are you ready? An elevator pitch is a short synopsis of your background and expertise, or a brief, persuasive summary of a project you are working on. It is called an elevator pitch because it should be short enough to present in a quick elevator ride.

Teens and youth need tools to help them think about their core strengths, and to empower them to create a short elevator speech.

In English: Below are more tools that can help teens and young adults communicate their expertise and credentials.

En Español: A continuación, se incluyen herramientas que pueden ayudar a los adolescentes y adultos jóvenes a prepararse para compartir su experiencia y sus credenciales de manera rápida y efectiva con personas que no conocen.

How to Take Responsibility

Leaving choices and decisions to others leads to disempowerment. When a student leaves their choices to chance, or allows other people to make decisions for them, it is easier to complain and blame others when the outcome is not as expected. But when a student makes a decision or a choice, they own it and can take responsibility.

Here are three things students can do to take charge.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, work on improving yourself. When we compare ourselves to others, it is impossible to win. Success in others may look easy, but it is hard to know just how much they had to sacrifice, learn, and go through—or how many ups and downs they experienced. When you resist comparing yourself to others, you will be less engaged in judgment and self-judgment. Instead, focus on your own goals, your own work, your own dreams—this alone will be empowering.
  2. Take responsibility. When we leave our choices to chance, or let others decide for us, it is easier to complain or blame someone else when we don’t like the outcome. But most of the time, we had a chance to make a decision or to take responsibility for something. Leaving choices and decisions to others leads to disempowerment. Try starting with small steps, like listening to and taking responsibility for what your body needs (sleep, healthy food, movement).
  3. Do Something. Take Action! One of the best things you can do to feel empowered is to take a step that brings you closer to your goal. The next day, do it again. And again. To make it manageable, pick one goal. Make a list of all the small things that need to be done so you can accomplish your goal.


Social Capital

Social capital is a term that describes the notion of friendship and social connectedness. All people have some form of social capital, but only recently have sociologists recognized the power and potency of social capital. It is empowering!

The more friends you have, the more help you can get in dealing with a stressful situation. In fact, research shows that the more relationships people have—especially close relationships—the better they are able to deal with the stresses of life and the better their lives become.

Social capital has the potential to help improve:

  • Health and wellness
  • Jobs
  • Life success
  • Housing and living choices
  • Transportation access
  • And more
The more social capital people have, the more options they have in each of these critical life support areas.


Designing Inclusive Apprenticeships

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship has released "Designing Inclusive Apprenticeships: A Guide for Recruiting & Training Apprentices with Disabilities." The guide helps employers and apprenticeship intermediary organizations create more diverse, inclusive, and accessible apprenticeship programs. It includes recommendations and resources to recruit, engage, and support apprentices with disabilities.

National Disability Mentoring Coalition

The RAISE Center’s own Josie Badger was inducted as a 2020 Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Famer.

The Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame was established in 2015 to carry on the legacy of disability champion and lifelong mentor Susan Daniels, and to spotlight individuals and groups around the country who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring.


ICYMI: Professionals and organizations are continuing to make strides in working with youth instead of around them. In support of this movement, RAISE has developed a series of webinars to give Parent Center professionals a framework for approaching programming centered on youth leadership, development, and empowerment.



My Experience with Disability and Leadership

"I think it's so important for schools to include more self-advocacy training for students and presuming competency training for teachers."

- Lillian Sellers, advocate

Lillian Sellers, a Pennsylvania student, is ready to graduate in June. In her post on the RAISE Center Blog she expresses that confidence is more important than anything else in the transition process, and shares that it's so critical for schools to include more self-advocacy training for students and presuming competency training for teachers.


Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.
Executive Editor:
Josie Badger
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RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.
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The RAISE Center is a project of the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and is funded by the US Department of Education's Rehabilitation Service Administration. The contents of this resource were developed under a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Education (H235G200007)). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and should not assume endorsement by the federal government.