This is a very very rough draft of the Disability Caucus Mission Statement, based on input from members of our group. Please comment and make suggestions for changes, and if you’re a member, feel free to edit, even rewrite this in its entirety, if you’d like. But keep in mind that our statement must reflect the OWS vision and use OWS language. It must also be as concise as possible (it’s already too long). We can write a long and detailed position paper and post it later if we want. This document with all proposed changes will be brought to the next meeting of the Disability Caucus on Friday, Feb. 10, 5:30pm at the Atrium at 60 Wall Street. We will have a lengthy discussion but probably not reach consensus at the next meeting. It may take a while before we reach consensus, but we should try our best to have a mission statement posted before the end of this month.
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We are people of all ages with all types of disabilities, visible and hidden, and allies who recognize that social and economic injustice and corporate greed are at the root of much of our oppression.
Our community has been hit harder than any other by the economic crisis caused by huge banking interests and the financial services sector which is rife with corruption and functions with inpunity. Social programs that many of us have come to depend on, which have enabled us to have some hard-won choices and rights in our lives, are being viciously slashed, causing much pain and hardship. We feel that we’re being forced to bear the heaviest burden, while the 1% profits and thrives. Appealing to our elected officials, most of whom have been bought by corporate money, is often a waste of time and energy.
Many of our people were poor before the economic crisis. Even in times of economic boom we’ve always had the highest unemployment rate. Now, unemployment rates among our people are more than double the rates among non-disabled. Many who want to and could work do not, because of disincentives built into social programs, lack of adequate education, the low expectations of society, discrimination in the workplace, and absence of access to the built and social environment, which also prevents many from participating in all aspects of life in our society. Of those of us who work, a high percentage are underemployed and underpaid, and some are trapped in sheltered workshops.
Some of our people are forced into poverty by the inequity of a profit-driven health care system; and/or forced to stay poor for fear of losing health-care coverage and other vital services and supports under the means-tested, inherently discriminatory Medicaid program., which itself is the institutionalized crime of medical apartide. The most downtrodden of our brothers and sisters are incarcerated in various types of institutions, often because of unavailability of housing and/or community-based services, and because of bigotry and ignorance of those who have assumed rule over our lives. Some serve “life sentences” for the “crime” of having a disability.
These conditions and factors are often compounded by other forms of discrimination based on race, age, gender, gender identity, stigma, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, etc.
Disability has long-been occupied/colonized by the for-profit health care industry, by providers and manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and durable medical equipment. It has also been colonized by so-called not-for-profit service organizations and big charities, some of whom are deluded into believing that they’re improving our lives. It is in their interest to keep us dependent on their “good works” and to degrade us as objects of pity. Disability exploitation is big business. We are not-we refuse to be- cash cows, commodities or chattel. As social equals we will no longer be subjugated. Our social rights are never to be abrogated.
Our different bodies, and/or our different ways of functioning, thinking and behaving have been subverted by the tyrannical cultural ideal of “normality.” Our identities have been confiscated by relentless stereotypes that have nothing to do with who we are. Our lives have been devalued and judged expendable by an ableist culture.
For over 40 years we’ve been organizing and fighting with all our might, and have managed to bring about some much-needed change, in spite of tremendous opposition, prejudice and discrimination. But we are still nowhere near being liberated.
Now, emboldened by the force and energy of the Occupy movement, we say: We will not rest until all our people are free. We will not rest until our people have achieved true equality on every level of society, and until our differences are embraced and celebrated.
Our Caucus wishes to bring a better understanding of the disability experience, of our issues and our various needs for access to Occupy Wall Street. It is also our desire to offer to the blossoming Occupy movement the unique perspective that comes with living with a disability in this hostile society. In unity with all other oppressed groups, we affirm our pride, assert our power, and vow to fight against all injustice.