Speaking Up for Ourselves as People With Disabilities
How do we people who live with disabilities stop allowing others who do not have a disability from making decisions about us without us? We can’t just assume they “get it” anymore. We must step up and speak out more.
To step up and speak out, we must be willing to talk about why our lives as disabled people matter. We must talk not only to political leaders, but also to business owners, religious leaders, friends and family and the public-at-large about our lives, our needs, our desires and our rights.
In talking about our lives, I believe we should not focus as much on the negative aspects (although they do matter) as on the positives. In speaking about our needs, we should tell the truth. We shouldn’t say we do not need much if that is not true. If we need help living full and productive lives, we should speak up for it. When you admit you need the assistance of others, you can help open the doors of opportunity for others to get support in the future.
Talking with others about our desires is different than speaking on our needs. Desires are things we hope or wish for in life. They’re not life-or-death things that will make a big difference, but they are part of who we are as people. They are an important aspect of living a better life with a disability.
Don’t be fearful about speaking up for your rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act and other laws and policies that protect us as disabled people. When you’re discriminated against, it’s important to know what to say in your defense. It’s not too hard to research facts on the law, and even if it’s hard to find specifics in your situation, there is assistance out there – either from other people who’ve been in your shoes, or by legal aid resources who can do further research.
Start taking a stand by talking about yourself first, what you need others to know, and why you have a right to your needs and desires.
Let’s get to work and advocate!
Getty image by nosy revy.