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MOVE TO INCLUDE is a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation designed to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Through programming and special events, WXXI and the Golisano Foundation look to build a more inclusive community by inspiring and motivating people to embrace different abilities and include all people in every aspect of community life.

Disability rights activist visits Rochester to discuss ‘self-direction’

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI
Emily Ladau, a disability rights activist, speaking at the JCC in Rochester about an idea called self-direction.

One disability rights activist says that often people are too quick to assume someone with a disability can’t make their own decisions. Emily Ladau, a writer and editor in chief of the Rooted in Rights blog, visited Rochester recently to raise awareness about a different way of thinking called self-direction.

“In the case of people with disabilities, there’s absolutely no reason to go in assuming that they can’t do something or that they can’t make decisions for themselves. But this happens a lot,” she said. “It happens with professionals or parents speaking over people with disabilities when they should really be leading their own lives and saying things that they think and feel.”

Self-direction also happens to be the name of a New York state program geared toward individuals choosing specific services. Ladau’s message is not tied to the state program in a technical sense.

“To self-direct your own life means that you are at the helm—of all the decisions that are made. There can be people supporting you, there can be people working with you to make the decision. But, I’m talking about how people with disabilities can still direct their own lives, without having people take over their autonomy,” Ladau said.

Ladau’s workshop was part of a series hosted by Starbridge, a Rochester based agency that offers a variety of services to people with disabilities.

“That’s not to say that everyone is an island and shouldn’t have support. But it is to say you’re the person who knows best what you need. And even if you have different methods of communicating than what might be considered “the norm,” that doesn’t change the fact that you have a right as an autonomous being to make decisions for yourself,” Ladau added.

The series, “Building a Vibrant Community,” is focused on self-direction, inclusion and belonging.  It’s open to the public.

This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.

Karen Shakerdge covers health for WXXI News. She has spent the past decade asking people questions about their lives, as a documentary film producer, oral historian and now radio reporter.