To have an independent living movement there are only a few principles that are immutable. “I speak for myself.” It summarizes the revolution from dependence to independence. Once our lives were controlled by experts; doctors, teachers, researchers, institutions, but now as a consumers, Disabled people make informed choices about every aspect of life. “I am responsible to make decisions, weigh risks, deal with consequences, fair and fowl, and to measure personal satisfaction in my terms.” Service delivery systems are structured by national policy making the individual served responsible to create service plans that express their personal standards for a meaningful life. There aren’t, in theory, any conditions or qualifiers placed on the inherent right of every individual to design their service plan to meet their specific goals irrespective of their diagnosis or level of disability. “I am empowered by the act of asserting my voice and taking responsibility for my decisions.” No abled-bodied person should speak on my behalf or usurp my voice.
Like many other minorities, people with disabilities often find themselves outsiders to mainstream society. Ignorance and prejudice conspire to segregate and deny us many of the benefits of society. Disability pride and community answer back. “We are a proud people. Disability identity and culture replace internalized stigma. The experience of belonging and the support of peers replace vulnerability with strength.” We value interdependence and accept that we all have things we need and things we can provide; that we are stronger together.
People with sensory disabilities, or intellectual disabilities, physical, or psychiatric disabilities have concerns specific to their type of disability, but we share many more critical social issues as a product of discrimination; low-expectations, environmental barriers, poverty, access to health care, equal opportunity in education and employment, parental rights, even the right to live. “The disability community must fight injustice in every form because no one of us is safe when any one of us is abused, exploited or oppressed.” As individuals we are vulnerable, but as a community we are strong and just.