What is People First?

We are People First!

We want others to know that we are people first and our disabilities come second.  

We are developmentally disabled people joining together to learn how to speak for ourselves. 

We form chapters at the places where we work or live.  We have local chapters in our cities, and those chapters join together to make state chapters.  People First is networking with other states and advocacy groups.

We live in institutions, foster homes, our parents homes, group homes, and our own apartments.  We go to school, we work in sheltered workshops and in community businesses. 

We serve on state and local ARC boards. We sit on the Governor's Commission for the Handicapped and State DD Councils. We have served on the President's Commission on Mental Retardation. We serve on local advisory committees and employment councils. One of us ran for city council and placed third of four candidates.

A Hollywood producer made a movie about us called "The People First Movie." It tells all about how we got started in Salem, Oregon in 1974. Books have been written about us an an example of how handicapped people can learn to be their own advocates. In 1996 a Japanese television station filmed a special program all about who we are and what we doing.

Do We Really Want to Speak for Ourselves?

YES! We believe that if we can learn to talk at our meetings and among ourselves, we can learn to talk to anyone about things that are important to us.  We talk to our parents, our service providers, our caseworkers, to city councils and mayors. We talk to legislators and legislative committees, to governors and even the President.  Even though it may be hard to understand us sometimes, people listen to us because they know that we know what we are talking about.

How Did People First Get Started?

In 1974, a group of residents who were living at Fairview Training Center in Salem, Oregon and some of their friends who had moved into the community in Salem decided to start getting together to try to get organized. We wanted to have a say in what was happening in our lives.

We decided that we wanted to have our own convention; one that we planned and where we were the speakers and the leaders in control. We did not want to just be a small part of another group, like the ARC. We wanted to be our own organization and speak for ourselves.

We got volunteers to be our "helpers" since we didn't have the money to hire any staff. Our "helpers" didn't lead us. They just helped and coached us when we asked. They helped us learn to hold meetings so we could talk about things that were important to us and not just what was important to them. Our helpers were good because they let us learn and move ahead at our own speed, even if it wasn't fast enough for them.

Good helpers are important to People First. Good helpers know that People First is ours and not theirs. Good helpers help us and don't try and tell us what to do. They let us make our own mistakes and this let us grow and take responsibility for what we were doing.

What Are Our Rights and Responsibilities?

People first members stand up for their rights. But we have also learned that we have to be responsible and act responsibly to exercise our rights. And we know that we may need some help in being responsible. We help other members when they are having problems to help them solve problems in a responsible way.

What Can We Teach The Community That  We Live In?

 We can teach the community that we can do things that they never thought we could. We are teaching communities that we can learn, and that we know what is going on around us. We can vote, ride the buses by ourselves, get married and do many of the things they do. We can teach the community to respect us because we are responsible. We participate on DD Councils, ARC Boards, and Transit Boards. We develop service projects to the communities we live in.

What Do We Want?

People First wants to be treated with dignity and respect.  We want the right to make our own decisions. We want to be in control of any plans that have to do with us. We want to be recognized as a primary advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities.

People First wants to live in a safe environment. We want an accessible environment. We want more chances to live where we want. We want low cost housing. We want our privacy.

People First doesn't want to live in poverty. We want more jobs in community businesses. We want to paid a fair wage when we work.

People First wants transportation to get where we want to go. We want 24 hour bus service.

People First wants full medical and health benefits.

What Do We Offer?

People First offers support, a united voice and advocacy to its members. We offer information and helps develop service projects in the communities we live in. We offer information and assistance to countries around the world in starting new chapters. We offer participation on DD Council Boards, ARC Boards, Transit Boards and other boards in our community.

Where Can You Find People First?

There are People First chapters and other self-advocacy groups all over the United States and in many other countries as well. We have a Directory on our web site which will help you find a chapter in your own area

How Do You Start a People First Chapter?

Our new People First Chapter Handbook has the information to help you organize and run a self-advocacy group.


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