THE FIRST SELF-ADVOCACY CONFERENCES
The Swedish Parents' Association arranged a national conference for young adults who were active in these clubs. The conference was an opportunity for people with disabilities to discuss, among themselves, issues that concerned them: vocational training, wages at the sheltered workshop, and leisure and recreational activities. News of this event traveled fast in Sweden.
In 1972, England held a national conference sponsored by the Spastics Society and organized by the Campaign for the Mentally Handicapped. Canada followed with its first self-advocacy conference in British Columbia in 1973.
Several people with developmental disabilities from Oregon participated in the Canadian conference. While advisors (people without disabilities) seemed to do much of the talking, everyone who attended was impressed by the large number of persons with developmental disabilities who discussed their concerns.
Following this conference, self-advocates from Oregon organized a meeting and planned their own conference for 1974 with the assistance of individuals from the state of Washington.
At this planning meeting, one man talked about being labeled "mentally retarded" and said, "I want to be known as a person first!"
People First was later chosen as the name for a new self-advocacy organization. A few hundred participants were expected to attend the 1974 conference; however, nearly 600 self-advocates came from all across the United States. Many people who had never before spoken publicly were taking the microphone and being heard. For the first time, many people discovered that their voices did count.