Nothing about us without us.

A motto of the self-advocacy movement is “Nothing About Us, Without Us!”. Lots of people talk about us without letting us talk. We should always be part of the conversation, and be in charge of our lives.

WELCOME TO THE AUTISTIC COMMUNITY

I first heard the expression “Nothing About Us Without Us” in South Africa in 1993. Michael Masutha and William Rowland, two leaders ofDisabled People South Africa, separately invoked the slo- gan, which they had heard used by someone from Eastern Europe at an international disability rights conference. The slogan’s power derives from its location of the source of many types of (disability) oppression and its simultaneous opposition to such oppression in the context of control and voice.

“Nothing About Us Without Us” resonates with the philosophy and history of the disability rights movement (DRM), a movement that has embarked on a belated mission parallel to other liberation movements. As Ed Roberts, one of the leading figures of the international DRM, has said, “If we have learned one thing from the civil rights movement in the U.S., it’s that when others speak for you, you lose” (Driedger 1989:28). In this sense, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and “Power to the People” can be recognized as precedents for “Nothing About Us With- out Us.” The DRM’s demand for control is the essential theme that runs through all its work, regardless of political-economic or cultural differences. Control has universal appeal for DRM activists because the needs of people with disabilities and the potential for meeting these needs are everywhere conditioned by a dependency born of powerless- ness, poverty, degradation, and institutionalization. This dependency, saturated with paternalism, begins with the onset of disability and con- tinues until death. The condition of dependency is presently typical for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US: Disability Oppression and Empowerment

Strong content warning: Holocaust, genocide, ableism, eugenics, euthanasia

My kind were identified
By twisted scientists
Separate by neurology
Focused ideology
The ones of us most profound
Sadly were oven bound
It seems I would have been
A super soldier unseen

Nothing about us
Without us any more
Do not rewrite history
On my account
Nothing about us
Without us any more
Do not rewrite history
On my account
I am not satisfied
To be marginalised
By ableist dictators
Robots patronising me
My condition was revealed
By a creator I oppose
Yet the source of my current chaos
Are my allies allegedly

Nothing about us
Without us any more
Do not rewrite history
On my account
Nothing about us
Without us any more
Do not rewrite history
On my account

--Nothing About Us Without Us by Tommy Concrete

More than two hundred thousand disabled children and adults were murdered during the official phases of the child euthanasia and T-4 programs, and thousands more were killed in acts of “wild euthanasia” by doctors and nurses on their own initiative. Obviously, the notion of transporting hundreds of corpses on roads that had to be kept clear for military convoys was impractical. As clinics, hospitals, and schools throughout the Reich dedicated their resources to the programs, crematoria were built next to these institutions, with conveyor belts to transport the bodies from the Kinderfachabteilungen to the ovens. In some institutions, improvised furnaces on wheels were employed to dispose of the corpses.

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (p. 135)

/Strong Content Warning

“If we have learned one thing from the civil rights movement in the U.S., it’s that when others speak for you, you lose”

Ed Roberts

We should always be part of the conversation.

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