The Right to Be Freepeople: Relational Voluntary-Assisted-Advocacy as a Psychological and Ethical Resource for Decolonizing Intellectual Disability


  • Charlotte Capri
  • Leslie Swartz


Participating in social activism implies responsibility for its exchange and creation. We focus on Intellectual Disability (ID) as an advocacy site for individuals who are dependent on assistance with activities of daily life, and attend to the process of taking care during social justice projects. Our paper responds to current South African social justice controversies perpetrated against people who may be unable to independently mobilize against increasingly othering – even deadly – socio-political conditions. Underpinned by relational Ethics of Care, voluntary-assisted-advocacy can be a psychologically relational, intersubjective, and societal project that strives for ID citizenship-making and social justice. This paper draws on numerous interviews and a number of ethnographic observations in exploration of ID care. Empirical material was subjected to thematic content analysis, and participant quotes bring our argument to life. Relationships among people with Intellectual Disability (PWID) and non-ID assistant-advocates are asymmetrical. We can either uphold dominant non-ID voices, or transform socio-political ruling relations that maintain dependence on conditions of power and inequality. Our contributions to the advocacy we co-create today will shape the activism we will depend on in future. We consider relational voluntary-assisted-advocacy as a psychological and ethical resource for sustainable, mutually satisfying social change.