Kathy Bates
A letterboard sign with the words Diversity, Inclusion, Equality

From Riley:

Hey Kathy, I was wondering if you could tell me what the phrase “Nothing about us, without us” means, and how it pertains to schools and school policies. Thank you!

Riley, thank you so much for asking me this great question. “Nothing about us, without us” is an international battle cry for the disability rights movement. The International United Nations Disability Caucus adopted it during the negotiations surrounding the creation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD is an international treaty that asserts basic rights for people with disabilities. It was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The phrase, “Nothing about us, without us” expresses the belief that people with disabilities have a right to fully participate in their own lives. We must also be directly involved in the development of programs, services, and laws that are meant to support us. We give away our power when we allow others to make decisions for us. We should have a seat at the table when our lives are directly affected by the laws being proposed. Advocacy is a critical skill for all members of the disability community to learn and put into practice. Students in junior high should learn about disability history and basic self-advocacy skills to better support marginalized people and their own needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures equal access to free and appropriate education for all students with disabilities. During the transition phase required by the ADA, students begin to make decisions about their educational path and future employment opportunities. Nothing about us, without us” is all about making these important decisions and fully participating in our own lives.