by Eddie Ytuarte; this article was originally published in Partisan issue no. 22, printed January 2007.

Disability political work narrowly focuses on serving people who are already disabled and no thought at all is given to the prevention of disability. Much of disability activism or service to the disability community comes through non-profit organizations and public-interest law firms. There is growing literature on disability but there are few (if any) organizations whose work comes from a socialist understanding. Technocrats who try to speak for the disability community (some not themselves disabled) are tied into the two-party system, and especially the Democrats who have been more generous in granting government funding to disability organizations.

In 1982, "International Year of Disabled Persons," the U.N. General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (WPA), which set guidelines for a world strategy to promote "equality" and "full participation" by persons with disabilities in social life and development. The three major objectives of the WPA are 1) Prevention, 2) Rehabilitation, and 3) Equalization of opportunities. The WPA left it up to each country, according to level of development, how to strive for the three objectives.

One thing obvious in avoidance of disability and disablement is avoidance of war. So simple and so true. The WPA recognized that to avoid disability, don't go to war. There are other things the WPA pointed to in avoiding disablement: Improvement of hygiene, education and nutrition; accident prevention; improving the environment; improvement of education -- even family planning.

Unfortunately, disability activists in this country have never incorporated prevention of disability into their work as they continue to organize around goals having only to do with the effects of disability.

The most profound disability rights issue under Bush has been the attack on Iraq. The US doesn't want to count the people it has killed or who have died. But with the deaths go the crippling and the maiming, including the crippling and maiming of US soldiers returning from the war, tens of thousands already.

Before the invasion, there was much debate as to the merits of the war, some within the disability community. Should disabled persons or disability organizations stake out positions? Many disability activists didn't want to see the Iraq war as their concern. "Oh no, it's better that we talk about barrier-free streets in Sacramento, about celebrating the ADA anniversary, but this war stuff is not our concern and we have to support our troops."

There is a lot of conservatism in the disability community, in large part because spokespersons for people with disabilities are those who make their living from the disability industry, and are tied to the Democratic Party. Readers interested in the politics of disability may want to further exchange ideas or expand or challenge the views put forth here.

Eddie Ytuarte. 2006 Peace and Freedom candidate for Assembly in Oakland's 16th District in 2006, is also board president of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley. His e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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