Speaking for Ourselves

Self Advocacy in Action

Produced in 1985 (exact date unknown) by the Research and Training Center at the Unversity of Oregon (Run time 7:29)

Self advocates speak about the concepts of "people first" and self determination, and how stereotypes are perpetuated when labels are used to categorize individuals.


- And I just hope maybe we can win this battle once and for all and not have to be called handicapped and hoping that people will look at us as human beings and not as handicapped, because we do have feelings.

- I know that I have the right to get married, to live on my own, and to attend the church of my choice.

- I think it's cruel, I think it's terribly cruel that we are spoken this way, labeled this way. To me, if you got to label something, label words. Label jars. Label the street. But don't label a person. You put them down in a hole. And I'd like to see personally for a goal for People First is to get rid of "mentally retarded," "mentally disabled," "mentally" everything.

[Cheers and applause]

Male narrator: Exciting social movement is growing throughout the world.

Virtually thousands of people with developmental disabilities are shedding their passive role to stand up and speak for themselves. This grassroots movement is known as the self-advocacy movement of persons with developmental disabilities. It began over ten years ago in the United States, and today there are self-advocacy groups developing in Canada, England, and Australia.

These people have organized to demand that they be recognized as people first and handicapped second. They are demonstrating their ability to make their own decisions and solve their own problems. Their message is that they want to be recognized as full-fledged citizens. We now invite you to witness the excitement of this movement and the promise it holds for people with disabilities everywhere.

- How rights are sometimes limited.

Objectives for this is to discuss some of the ways our civil and human rights are sometimes limited.

Narrator: The process of self-advocacy is a two-way street. When it comes to understanding people with developmental disabilities, we must recognize that we are blinded by the stereotypes we hold in our minds.

The challenge, then, is upon us to reeducate ourselves, to literally turn upside down our assumptions about who these people are. And as they learn to emphasize their abilities and speak for themselves, we must listen carefully to what they are saying to us.

- That really hurts me deep down.

- So you're really kind of caught, the things that people want you don't have and that you don't have the chance to get those things because you keep getting shot down.

- They won't give it to you.

- Mm-hmm, okay.

- We are adults, and we should be treated as adults, not as little kids.

- Yeah!

- Yeah.


- What about the issue of labeling, labeling people "mentally retarded"? What do you think People First is doing about that problem?

- I know we are letting the public know that we don't like to be called mentally retarded, dumb, and ignorant and can't learn. We can learn if they give us a chance to learn. Just because we're so slow in learning, that doesn't mean we can't learn at all.

- And all my life, I've heard, "Judy, you can't do it. It's too hard. Judy, you can't do it. It's too hard for you. Why try to do it?" And I began to focus this in my mind. Everything that I tried to do was too hard, and I didn't think there was anything.

But since I've moved up to Hood River and started in the workshop up there, everything's working out really good because I've made up my mind that I can learn anything that I want to learn and I can do anything I want to do. And that's about it.

- All right, Judy.


- How many--I want to see a raise of hands. About how many people have thought about voting? Well, some people say that you shouldn't vote. This lady up in front here just said you shouldn't vote because you can't think or can't write. Is that true?

Crowd: No!

- Let me hear that again. Is that a yes or a no?

Crowd: No!

- Okay, I think I agree with you. I think you can think and you can write and you can vote.

- And so what that does is, it allows us to take control and to become powerful, to become powerful with our anger.

Organizing is the process of people working together to get things done, okay, to get power.

Okay, so again, here's the name of our workshop, okay: How we can get power and organize for positive change.