Testimony RE: A4461
Dan Keating, PhD, Executive Director
Before the Assembly Human Services Committee
NJ State House
June 18, 2015
Good afternoon Chairwoman Vainieri-Huttle and members of the committee. My name is Dan Keating. I am the Executive Director of The Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD), a statewide organization representing member agencies that provide an array of community –based supports for more than 20,000 people of all ages with complex physical and neurological developmental disabilities and their families. ABCD members provide services and supports to individuals with significant medical and behavioral challenges.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak before your committee today in support of A4461, which deletes references to pejorative and archaic language that is used in the State statutes when referring to persons with developmental, cognitive, or psychiatric disabilities. ABCD applauds the sponsors for their proactive approach to establishing that all individuals are people first and should not be defined by their disability. This is more than a change for the sake of “political correctness.” This is establishing that all people are unique; each person brings value to society and their community.
The World Health Organization’s International Classification of Function (2001) tells us that we need to identify first what function people are capable of, not their impairments! We must first look at what activities people can perform, not at their disability. Finally, we must look at how people can participate in the community not at handicap! We must focus on what people CAN do, not at what they can’t do!
Focus on limitations and disability sets the expectation bar very low. If we say people can’t, they won’t. Many people with disabilities have been told they can’t. We can no longer set very low expectations. We now see all people as capable of function, activity, and participation. We must set the bar higher, much higher. Moving at their own pace people will heighten the bar according to their ability. Will everyone exceed the bar, perhaps not? But I assure you that they will surprise and even astound us with what they can do if encouraged and given the resources to do more.
With me today are some individuals who have cleared the low bar of expectations set for them at one point in their lives. Today they are ever raising the bar of their own expectations. They will share what this legislation means to them. Thank you for this legislation that will change how we will refer to all people with disabilities: As People First.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the thoughts of the members of ABCD with you today. We look forward to on-going dialogue with the legislature and the administration to continually focus upon the provision of quality supports to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community.
Daniel J. Keating, PhD
The Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD)