Although this is a New Jersey initiative, it's very important and so I will be adding several posts to the NOVA blog.
Comments To Be Given Today at Press Conference on NJ De-Institutionalization Bill A3625
Ten years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that it wasn't a crime to have a disability. Today, we launch an effort to make the reality in New Jersey match that ruling. New Jersey's current overuse of institutions has left thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities locked away and thousands more on waiting lists. As a self-advocate running an organization of adults and youth on the autism spectrum, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, I feel this issue is one of great personal importance. Our people have been locked away for ages in conditions that often challenge the very idea of civilization. The history of disability policy over the last thirty years has been a story of constant struggles for greater inclusion, greater support, greater access, greater rights and greater opportunities for our people. Through the introduction of this legislation, we take a step forward in the spirit of that history to end a system whereby individuals have no choice but to live apart from their families, their homes and their communities.
One of the things that I find most impressive about this initiative is that it is supported by representatives from every major group in the disability community: parents, providers and people with disabilities ourselves all understand the importance of freeing our people from unnecessary and all too often abusive institutional settings. Let us be clear: this is not merely a bureaucratic reshuffling of how service-delivery occurs – it is a realization of one of the most crucial human rights issues of our time: the right of individuals with disabilities not to be segregated and marginalized but instead to be included and supported throughout society. The message that we send through supporting balancing our service-delivery infrastructure to support community services is that people with disabilities can, with the right support, succeed in being recognized as full members of our communities and citizens in our society. I'd like to thank Assemblymen Greenwald and the groups here today for their support of a better future for people with disabilities.
Thank you and Free Our People.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network