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We Have Choices

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Where We Stand

A position statement
of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, Inc.

As individuals with the challenge of a disability, we have the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other member of our community. This includes the right to the opportunities and choices for a full and meaningful life. It also includes the right to participate in decisions that effect our lives and the right to have our voices count. The following briefly details some of the Self-Advocacy Association’s positions on some critical issues effecting the lives of people with the challenge of a disability.

Where we live:

Self-advocates applaud the current plan to close all developmental centers. Institutional care should not be an option or necessity for any individual with a disability. We have learned that smaller homes, apartments and work place locations allow many more opportunities for self-advocates to be part of their community. We strongly urge the continued support for individualized services, based on person centered planning, which support the actual needs and desires of individuals rather than the “systems” goals .

We support the development of a variety of living arrangements, including smaller houses and apartments, people with disabilities living with people without disabilities, the possibility of home ownership and the flexible supports that enable people to control their own lives.

Where we work and spend our days:

Like everyone, people with disabilities want to be involved in meaningful and productive activities within their community. Whether it’s going to school at regular schools, working competitive jobs or having an interesting retirement activity, we want opportunities to develop and use our skills and talents and pursue our interests.

The current system of support for day services is very limited. A majority of money is spent on traditional services such as Day Treatment and Workshops. Choice is extremely limited. There is currently a national trend towards community based supportive employment, which most self-advocates enthusiastically support. This support does not suggest that day services such as workshops should be completely eliminated, at least not at this time. What it does suggest is that alternatives such as supportive employment with ongoing job coaching, enclaves in businesses, worker owned and managed businesses, and other community based options should be expanded. Workshops and other day services should be improved to reflect the individual needs of people with disabilities for a challenging and meaningful work, volunteer opportunity, or other activity.

With the increased choices of supportive employment the current, facility based programs will naturally “downsize” and will remain a viable choice to consumers only as long as they meet individual needs for productive activity and quality working conditions.

Participating in decisions that affect our lives:

Over the last several years, self-advocates have begun to play an important role on committees and boards which make decisions that effect services that are provided for individuals with disabilities. Many Consumer Councils and local planning groups and even provider boards of directors now include members with disabilities. Opportunities for participation on such boards and committees must be increased. All government appointed committees and boards and local boards and groups must include representatives of the individuals served.

In order for a more full participation on the above mentioned boards and committees to occur, increased assistance in the form of transportation, training in self-advocacy skills, and personal assistance for individuals with disabilities must be available.

As individuals with disabilities, supported by the “system”, we have a lot of experience and knowledge to offer and a right to make our voices part of all decisions that effect our lives and the lives of our friends and peers who also have disabilities.

Really being part of our community:

As services have expanded over the years, many community based homes and work programs have been developed within our communities. Hundreds of provider agencies provide these support services, including the State of New York. But many of us with the challenge of a disability lead isolated lives within our communities, with few friends and associations outside of staff and other people with disabilities. We want to be fully included in the life of the community, not just with jobs and places to live but with recreational, social and spiritual opportunities as well. The “systems” focus must change. Support services that provide a bridge to community based events, associations, medical and therapeutic services, recreational opportunities and religious groups need to be developed and encouraged. Not every person with a disabilities needs or wants a special bowling program; many of us just need to be introduced to other people in our community who bowl or have other interests in common.

This position paper was adopted by the Self-Advocacy Board of Directors in July of 1995.


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