Thursday, May 31, 2007


We proclaim that we are born free and equal human beings; that our
disabilities are limitations only, and that our identity does not derive
from being disabled. We proclaim 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

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 of choice.

Finally, we 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 themselves. 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.

By John R. Woodward, M.S.W. Center for Independent Living of North Florida,
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