What Is People First?
People First is part of a growing movement of self advocacy groups throughout the United States and the world.
We are individuals with developmental disabilities joining together to learn how to speak for ourselves. We want others to know that we are people first and our disabilities come second. We form chapters at the places where we work or live. We have local chapters in our communities, and those chapters join together to make state chapters. People First is networking with other states and advocacy groups.
We live in many types of settings, our own apartments, our parent’s homes, groups homes, and with foster families. We go to school, we work in community businesses, we have supported employment services, and we work in sheltered workshops.
We serve on state and local Boards of Disability-Service Organizations. We sit on various local boards and State Developmental Disability Councils. We have served on Independent Living Councils and we serve on local advisory committees and employment councils.
People First self-advocacy groups are based on the following philosophical concepts:
• People First represents a statement by persons that we want to be perceived by others as people who have something to offer and skills to share rather than being seen as persons with handicaps and limitations.
• People First is a self advocacy organization and that means that people learn to speak for themselves.
• People First voting membership is open to all persons who have a developmental disability. Only voting members can be officers.
• People First is a peer group process which, over time, allows persons to learn to talk for themselves, advocate for themselves, listen to others, make choices, listen to peers, make decisions, solve problems, and ultimately develop leadership skills.
• People First is a process which must be paced to insure that every person present has a chance to learn to participate to the best of their ability and learn how to advocate for themselves.
• People First must initially be a blending of advisors or mentors working with people with disabilities in order to provide the modeling and support necessary for the development of self-advocacy and leadership skills.
• People First advisors provide modeling and support by working with individuals with disabilities to neutralize barriers that stand in the way of persons advocating for themselves. Advisors do not lead, control or coerce.
• People First belongs to the people.