This document was developed in 2008-2009 by the Massachusetts Alliance for 21st Century Disability Policy (MA21). It is intended for families and individuals- as well as elected officials and other policymakers- to help them conceptualize what a comprehensive disability policy can and should look like. MA21 is a partnership of some of the Commonwealth’s leading statewide disability advocacy organizations: Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC), Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC), and The Arc of Massachusetts (The Arc), with additional contributions from Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM) and the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC). The Federation for Children with Special Needs and the Mass. Sibling Support Network joined MA21 in 2010. We hope and expect that other advocacy organizations and providers will embrace this document as well, creating consensus on a unified framework through which to view and improve public policy for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
|“Disability is Natural” is more than just a saying. It is a guide to how we – people with disabilities and our families – would like to interact with the world and how we would like the world to interact with us. Though what we are asking is simple – to have the same opportunities as anyone else – we realize the sea-change this represents from our long and often troubled history in this country.
We are individuals, first and foremost, with our own individual cultures, tastes, emotions, wants, needs, and opinions. We deserve the same access to education, medical care, social activities, employment opportunities, and transportation options as anyone. While we may rely on our families and/or communities to help us, it is everyone’s primary responsibility when making decisions on our behalf to ascertain our personal wishes and abide by them. This is how anyone would expect to be treated.
We recognize the huge task before us. From the moment a disability is diagnosed, society treats us and our families differently. This is true not only of laypeople, but even of many of the best-trained professionals and those with experience treating and interacting with people with disabilities. People with disabilities have rarely been treated as equals, as highlighted by our exclusion from America’s historic civil rights struggle.
Despite this history, we acknowledge the great advances that have been made and are optimistic that the future can and will be brighter still. We repeat: Disability is Natural. We have no doubt society will one day appreciate this, but we intend to make it happen sooner rather than later.
Photo by Tom Rettig, Worcester Telegram & Gazette