that we are born free and equal human beings; that our disabilities
are limitations only, and that our identity does not derive from
that we have the same value as people who are not disabled, and
we reject any scheme of labeling or classifying us that encourages
people to think of us as having diminished value.
We reject the
idea that institutions must be created to "care" for us,
and proclaim that these institutions have been used to "manage"
us in ways that non-disabled people are not expected to accept.
We particularly denounce institutions whose purpose is to punish
us for being disabled, or to confine us for the convenience of others.
We reject the
notion that we need "experts," to tell us how to live,
especially experts from the able-bodied world. We are not diagnoses
in need of a cure or cases to be closed. We are human, with human
dreams and ambitions.
We deny that
images of disability are appropriate metaphors for incompetence,
stupidity, ugliness or weakness.
We are aware
that as people with disabilities, we have been considered objects
of charity and we have been considered commodities. We are neither.
We reject charitable enterprises that exploit our lifestyle to titillate
others, and which propose to establish the rules by which we must
live without our participation. We also reject businesses that use
us as "warm bodies" to provide a passive market for their
services, again laying down rules by which we must live for their
profit. We recognize that the lines between charities and businesses
are blurred in the disability industry, and we do not accept services
from either if their essential function is to exploit us.
We assert our
rights of self-determination in the face of rules, eligibility criteria,
regulations, customs, laws or other barriers, and we pledge not
to allow any authority or institution to deprive us of our freedom
assert that any service we need, from specialized teaching to personal
care, can be provided to us in the community among our non-disabled
peers. Segregated institutions are not necessary to serve us, and
they have been the greatest source of our oppression, especially
when they have been run by able-bodied people without our participation.
All human beings
are more alike than we are different. We recognize that when we
assert this belief we will find ourselves in conflict with regressive
institutions and their supporters, some of whom may be disabled
We do not expect
thousands of years of stereotyping to dissipate quickly. We commit
ourselves and those who come after us to challenge our oppression
on every level until we are allowed to be fully human and assert
our individuality ahead of our disability.
R. Woodward, M.S.W.
Center for Independent Living of North Florida, Inc.
This document may be distributed freely in electronic format.