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REDEFINING THE PROBLEM

The self-advocacy movement has redefined the "disability problem" as being less about rehabilitation and more about equality. Society said that persons with developmental disabilities must change to fit into society; they have said no, it's society that must change its attitudes and practices and accept us.

One way that self-advocates have redefined the "disability problem" is through reclaiming the language used to describe them. If disability is important in describing someone, it should be secondary to the person. Rather than "disabled people," self-advocates prefer "people with disabilities." Better yet, don't mention the disability at all unless it's relevant to the situation. People first becomes just people.

Jacobus tenBroek is one example of an individual who redefined "the disability problem." Born in Canada in 1911, tenBroek lost some of his sight at the age of seven, due to an accident; seven years later, he lost his remaining sight. He was educated at the University of California and Harvard University, and earned five degrees including three law degrees.

Jacobus tenBroek is one example of an individual who redefined "the disability problem." Born in Canada in 1911, tenBroek lost some of his sight at the age of seven, due to an accident; seven years later, he lost his remaining sight. He was educated at the University of California and Harvard University, and earned five degrees including three law degrees.

In 1934, tenBroek and one of his teachers, Newel Perry, organized the California Council of the Blind. The Council was directed by people who were blind and became the model for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NFB was founded by tenBroek in 1940 and he served as its first president. tenBroek was convinced that people who are blind could establish and direct their own organization, and he helped them focus on that fact. His conviction is reflected in the organization's name and the use of the word "of" rather than "for."

When tenBroek died in 1968 at the age of 56, he was recognized and respected as an international legal scholar, a leading national authority on constitutional law, and an authority on social welfare issues.

Label Jars Not People