The view that people with disabilities are full citizens with equal rights to education, to procreate, to own property, to access courts of law, to vote, to have civil rights protected and to have equal access to employment is vital to the experience of being equal. A common term for the laws that have been passed to enforce the rights of people with disabilities is ?disability rights?. These laws do not provide extra, separate or special rights for people with disabilities; the laws provide enforcement of rights to prevent discrimination of people with disabilities exercising their basic rights. These laws were necessary to reverse the stigma against people with disabilities.
Disability rights have the goal that people with disabilities will be respected, free, autonomous, and accepted by society. It is very important to people with disabilities that society learns to see past the disability to fully accept the person. If we listen closely to the stories people with disabilities tell and attempt to understand how they experience the world, we learn what ?disability rights? means in human terms. One self-advocate who has spoken out nationally about disability rights is Connie Martinez; she explains her experience as:
"There was something inside me hungry to be free...The first thing for the professionals and the parents to understand is that we can have a good quality of life if we have control over our own lives and if we have the help we need to keep that control and independence in our own lives... We have to take back control of our lives from the keepers, from the professionals... My parents always had a dream for my brothers and sister for when they grew up, but nobody ever had a dream for me, so I never had a dream for myself. You can never have a good life if nobody ever has a dream for you unless you learn to have a dream for yourself. That?s what I had to do, and now I have a dream for myself: a little casa, a garden with flowers and pepper and tomatoes, a loved one to share my life with--and more..." (Connie Martinez 1990, 3,4 and 6).
Bridge To The Future >