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"Nothing about me without me."

THE GOALS OF SELF-ADVOCACY

Inclusion International, formerly the International League of Societies for Persons with Mental Handicaps (ILSMH), represents an international self-advocacy perspective. Self-advocates have frequently noted that people with disabilities are excluded from the decision making process because they are considered incapable of making decisions. Because professionals and parents were concerned that they would fail, people with disabilities were not given the opportunity to learn decision making skills.

The following core beliefs, values, and principles of self-advocacy, as defined by Inclusion International, represent a significant departure from the past and the views of parents and professionals, and a continuing evolution in disability rights:

BELIEFS AND VALUES OF SELF-ADVOCACY

Being a person first
Not defined by our disability or thought of as an eternal child. We are individuals with our own identity.

Making our own decisions
Not having doctors or parents deciding where and how we live. We must be listened to as we express ourselves, and we must be allowed to make our own mistakes. We must help those who have higher support needs and cannot speak for themselves, so their decisions can be understood and respected.

Believing in my value as a person
Understanding that I am a valuable citizen, worker, and friend. From birth, every human has the same worth. We must be supported to like ourselves.

Having other people believe in you as a person
Not accepting old stereotypes of persons with disabilities as somehow less than human. All people have the right to be valued as an equal in their own community. We must not be discriminated against because of our disability. Other people must learn that we are people and treat us in the same way as everyone else.

PRINCIPLES OF SELF-ADVOCACY

Empowerment
Support must empower individuals to make their own decisions. Regardless of the degree of disability, we must have support to make our decisions. We must be allowed to take risks. It must be up to us to ask for help from those we trust.

Equal opportunity
All people must have equal opportunity to be supported as full members of their communities, without regard to race, culture, or sexual choice.

Learning and living together
Keeping people apart from their communities is not acceptable. We have the right to participate in the community, attend our public schools, and grow up with other children. We must have the opportunity to do the same things as everyone else and to share the joys of daily living.

Institutions are bad for people
Being in an institution is not a human way of life. Institutions remove all of the things worth living for – joy, happiness, love, tenderness, feelings, emotions – and make you give up on life itself. As self-advocates we must close down every institution and liberate our unfortunate brothers and sisters who are now wasting away.

Non-labeling
People have the right to be recognized as the person they are, and therefore must not be labeled. Labels devalue us and should not be used to identify us. A true understanding of who we are will include knowledge about disability.

These principles were prepared by The ILSMH Committee on Self-Advocacy. The committee consists of Chairperson Barb Goode, Canada; Ake Johansson, Sweden; Susanne Kolkmann, Germany; Robert Martin, New Zealand; Carol Pein, Australia; Alex Righolt, Netherlands; and Jackie Downer, England.