Description: People First is a self-advocacy training group for people with developmental disabilities.  Self-advocacy means that the members learn how to make decisions about their lives and speak for themselves.  Members learn from other members how to solve problems and practice self-direction and self-advocacy skills.  The Institute assists members by providing technical assistance as needed (e.g., conduct surveys, writing mission statement, etc.).  The Institute also serves as a contact and disseminates information on behalf of People First.


Project Contact:               

Project Period:                 1997-2014

Annual Funding:              $60,000

Funding Source:               Missouri Planning Council for DD


Core Functions

Community Services and Supports: People First, as members of the community, are assisted in making themselves and their needs heard in the community.  The Institute lends technical assistance as needed.

Interdisciplinary Personnel Preparation: UMKC students are able to fulfill practicum placement requirements by assisting People First.


Program Need and Historical Context

As people with disabilities take their rightful place within the community, their needs must be made known to others.  People First allows people with disabilities to learn self-advocacy skills and to speak as a united group within the community.   Currently there are 44 chapters that are recognized by the state chapter.  The statewide organization hosts quarterly steering committee meetings where two members and one advisor from each local chapter meet to discuss statewide issues.  People First of Missouri became a recognized 501c3 organization in 2004. IHD has been providing technical support to People First of Missouri for over 10 years.  Throughout the state of Missouri, People First members connect with decision-makers as equal partners and advocate for others with disabilities that have no voice and are still in institutions or other segregated settings.


Consumer and Community Involvement

  • People First is comprised and run by individuals with disabilities.
  • People First members are trained to become board members, speakers, and self-advocacy trainers.
  • Local chapters receive fiscal and in-kind support from organizations, such as SB-40’s or provider agencies.
  • Local chapters receive donations from businesses and organizations in their communities.


Significant Project Activities and Outcomes

  • People First members host a statewide conference every two years where approximately 300 self-advocates attend.
  • People First members host a Training Camp in which over 150 self-advocates participate per year.
  • People First Steering Committee members present at the national conferences, such Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered conference.
  • Presentations are made at high schools, Nursing Schools, Disability Connections, AAMR, and the Institute for Inclusive Education Conference.
  • People First of Missouri sponsored AmeriCorps*VISTA members to recruit more members and build chapters in areas where they were needed around the state.
  • People First of Missouri hosts an AmeriCorps member who provides mentoring to local chapter members and the statewide officers.
  • People First of Missouri members serve on statewide and local boards and organizations, such as SB-40s, AAMR, Mo-TASH, Congress on Disability Policy, Disability Education Day, and The Arc of Missouri.
  • 85% of the statewide steering committee members have graduated from Partners in Policymaking.
  • People First of Missouri received a sub-contract from the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant to collect information and data related to employment issues from consumers with disabilities.
  • People First of Missouri participated with the Real Choices grant in providing training to consumers with disabilities.


Institute’s Role

  • Developed the grant proposal and managed the development, administration, and delivery of Transportation Institute courses
  • Evaluated effectiveness of the project by conducting satisfaction evaluations of consumers, community organizations, and parents/family members
  • Recruited faculty and students to participate in the program