Webcast archive: Disability pride

Today, we discuss the beginning of the Disability Pride movement.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • Disability pride
  • Final Exit Network convicted of assisting in a 2007 suicide

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.


  • Two important events in disability history happened in the U.S in 1990, 25 years ago.
    • On July 26, the President George Bush (the first) signed the Americans with disabilities Act (ADA) into law in Washington DC.
    • On October 6, in Boston, disability rights advocates held a disability pride parade.
  • Our disability pride parade was one of the first such events in the world.
  • Our idea was to celebrate the passage of the ADA and to push our movement beyond that goal.
  • We knew that the ADA was not self-enforcing; that people with disabilities would have to drive compliance efforts. In order to do that, people with disabilities needed a sense of entitlement to their rights, and pride in themselves.
  • At one planning meeting, we talked about whether we dared to say “we are proud of our disabilities” or whether we wanted to just say “we are proud of ourselves as people with disabilities.” Making the more timid choice showed that we still lacked confidence at that point in history.  We can hope that those who organize similar events today would declare themselves proud of their disabilities.
  • During the months of planning, we developed a Disability Pride Platform Statement, that was a an important part of the event. Here is that statement.
    • Disability is a natural part of the human experience.
    • We take pride in ourselves as people with disabilities. As such, we object to unrealistic media portrayals of persons with disabilities, and the quality of life with a disability.
    • All people, regardless of limitation, are entitled to the maximum quality of life. This includes food, shelter, clothing, health care, medication and adaptive equipment, transportation, communication, help with activities of daily living, recreation, companionship, and spiritual and personal development, including education and occupation.
    • Every human being, regardless of limitation, has the right to self-determination.
    • Each person has the right to maintain and express his/her dignity.
    • We have a right to maintain our culture, without forced assimilation into the dominant culture.
    • It is primarily the physical, attitudinal and institutional barriers within this society — not our disabilities — which limit us. As we work to eliminate these barriers, so must the non-disabled society here and around the world.
    • We recognize and embrace the diversity among all people, including within the disability community.
    • People with disabilities must be given information about, and the opportunity to express our sexuality. We must be granted full reproductive rights and free choice in matters of family planning, including access to information, and techniques — contraception, fertility assistance abortion and sterilization — and be free from coercion or force in these matters.
    • People with disabilities have a right to be free from physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
    • People with disabilities have a right and duty to participate in the political process. This includes access to information, government activities and meetings, and polling places.
  • As you can see, this was not the best statement, nor the clearest or most complete ever written.
  • As for the event itself, there were about 1,500 people present. We had a parade followed by an outdoor rally, with disabled speakers, poetry and music.
  • Such events continue to today in other locations; they’re generally held on July 26, to correspond with the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


  • In Minnesota, a court convicted the Final Exit Network of assisting the 2007 suicide of Doreen Dunn. Dunn had chronic pain, but she said she did not know how to kill herself. The jury found that agents of Final Exit Network enabled Ms. Dunn to kill herself through their words and actions.  The group was also convicted of tampering with a crime scene and moving a body, since members removed the equipment used by Ms. Dunn in her suicide.  Final Exit Network faces a fine of up to $33,000.
  • Earlier this week, Albert Heringa was cleared of all criminal responsibility in the 2008 death of his mother in the Netherlands. Heringa was initially convicted in 2013 of having provided the drugs that she used to kill herself, but he received no penalty.  Nevertheless he appealed his conviction, and was acquitted. Yet another example of the slippery slope.