Many meetings about disabled people do not include them. Disabled people have been left on usout of many talks and decisions. They can be about little things, like their daily lives. They can be about big things, like national rules about disabled people.

In the 1990s, however, an old term was translated into English. It quickly became the motto of the worldwide disability rights movement. In five words, it says exactly what disabled people want and how they want it.

“Nothing About Us Without Us”

In other words: do not talk about us without including us.
Do not make laws about us without asking what we think. Do not say something is wheelchair-accessible without talking to wheelchair users. Do not talk above us at meetings. Do not have panels of experts on autism without an autistic person. Do not make clothes for people with cerebral palsy without having people with cerebral palsy test them. Do not write books about blindness without blind people.

For most of history, disabled people have been seen as less than non-disabled people. People were locked up in places called institutions. They were often little better or a lot worse than jails. Many non-disabled people think disabled people need to be taken care of. They think disabled people cannot take charge, and make changes in their lives, or in the lives of other disabled people.

We disabled people know that is simply not true. We have a lot to say. To get our points across, we talk with:

  • sign language
  • speech devices
  • writing, and more

Today, the slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us” is the title to a popular book by James Charlton. It is about how disabled people are running their own lives. It’s about how they are changing the world. It is also the slogan of groups like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. It was the theme of the United Nations International Day of the Disabled Person in 2003. It has even moved beyond the disability world. It has been used by other groups who are not treated well by others.

“Nothing About Us without Us” is a simple phrase. Yet it is very important. It tells everyone that disabled people want our voices to be heard. We want our thoughts to matter, because they do.

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