Developmental Disabilities Leadership Forum: Leadership Perspectives in Developmental Disability: An on-line Journal for Consumers, Professionals, Family and Friends
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Volume 1 , Issue 3 Date: Spring, 2001 Topic: Community Membership

Attitudes Are Part Of The Problem

by Liz Obermayer

I am a person with a disability and I would like to discuss with you why I think there are barriers towards having a self-determined life. I think because of attitudes people without disabilities have strong feelings towards people with labels. Those feelings sometimes might not always be favorable toward people with disabilities. The reason why I am saying this is because people without labels will have preconceived ideas on what we can and cannot do.

There are so many barriers, that it would take me the entire page to just list them. The reason I am saying this is because I believe everything that is causing people to not include people with disabilities as full contributing members of society is part of this issue. One of the barriers when talking about attitudes I believe is, employment and what kind of jobs people with disabilities should and can have.

When I was entering the working world, I remember talking to my parents and also the staff I had at the time, and they gave me two choices for types of jobs, to work in a library shelving books or to work in an office to make copies and collate. Yes I will admit that I enjoyed doing those things, however I knew I could do something more challenging with my life. I just needed some time to think. Right now I am a trainer on issues relating to inclusion and the quality of life people with disabilities deserve to have. Because I work in an office, sometimes I still do those things. However if you ask me today if I would want to go back and make copies all day or work in a library shelving books everyday, I would definitely say no.

The point of that story is that my parents like other people have ideas on what kind jobs we should able to get. This is wrong because it is not right to judge people based on their disabilities. I donít think people with disabilities are the problem about peopleís attitudes, the problems are peopleís behavior. Some examples to illustrate this are some people do not like talking or even being around people that have labels, people will often call us names such mentally retarded or handicap.

A lot of the barriers towards empowerment and self-determination are caused by attitudes of people. Some people think that people canít or shouldnít live or work in the community. Sometimes I think people think people with disabilities are not human and we donít deserve the right to live and work with everyone else in the community. This is totally wrong and needs to be stop.

Liz ObermeyerLiz Obermayer is a leader in the self-advocacy movement. She currently serves on the Executive Board of TASH and was formerly active in her local self-advocacy group in New Jersey, served on the Board fo New Jersey TASH, and worked with a state-wide group working to close institutions. On the national level, Liz was Vice President of the national organization, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) from 1993 to 1996. In August of 1998, Liz received the Elizabeth Monroe Boggs Award for Leadership.

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