A Disabled Manifesto

  • 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 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 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.

Author: John R. Woodward, M.S.W.
Center for Independent Living of North Florida, Inc.
This document may be distributed freely in electronic format.