Guiding Principles Based in Disability Justice

We have been tasked with visioning and building a world where everyone is empowered to live their best life without fear of policing, discrimination, violence, or isolation. All of us must participate if we are going to build sustainable communities that can survive the political, environmental, and social storms surrounding us globally–communities where we can exist as our whole selves without fear. 

Two people are reaching their arms to a star. A person on the left top has a short haired, large femme with earrings, placing their one hand on their wheelchair. The other person is skinny and has natural afro hair with bracelets on both of their wrists.

The call “we keep us safe” reminds us that solutions should empower all people, including Disabled and Neurodivergent people, to exercise our self-determination with care and understanding. We all deserve the resources, support, training and education we need to love and protect ourselves and one another.

Following the Principles of Disability Justice outlined by Sins Invalid, we propose these principles for alternatives to policing and incarceration:

1. Leadership by Our Most Impacted

  • Policies, practices and principles must be created by the people most harmed by the systems of policing and control. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach that works for all people impacted by ableism and sanism, and solutions need to meet people where they are.
  • All initiatives must be non-coercive and done with consent of the person who needs support, care, or de-escalation.
  • Peer-led and -initiated programming, resources, and support should be funded and prioritized over psychiatric facilities and interventions.
  • We must validate Neurodivergent and/or Disabled people’s needs, desires, experiences and leadership over those of professionals.
  • We must fund and amplify public education and cultural work that is created and led by people with lived experience to challenge ableist and sanist stigma in our communities.
  • Every initiative needs to be accessible in and to people’s language, culture, and identities rather than being an exclusionary, one-size-fits-all, standardized treatment. We want different kinds of care options instead of a standardized state framework. Care should be person-centered, accessible and grounded in a person’s specific needs and identities.

2. Centeredness in Community Support and Intervention – Skilling Up

  • All kids and adults should have ways to build skills needed for safety. Education must be free, inclusive and accessible. It should be provided in multiple languages, including sign languages. People who are Neurodivergent and/or Disabled should be both teachers and students. It should cover:
    • Comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive, disability-inclusive, sex education that centers consent
    • De-escalation
    • Bystander intervention
    • Mediation and generative conflict 
    • First aid
    • Self-defense
    • After care and continued support
  • Alternatives should prioritize proactive strategies for safety instead of reactive and punishment-based strategies. We must focus on solutions that keep people in their communities, and stabilize them through mutual aid resources, relationships and community networks, and accessible home, work and public spaces. We should amplify accessible tools such as Mad Maps, Safety Plans, Pod Maps, and T-Maps. 

3. Resourcing People Directly

  • We must build community-based supports, services, education, and housing for everyone, for every occasion. Everyone can live in the community no matter their disability or any other status. We should prioritize access to affordable and accessible housing, childcare, health care, transportation and food as building blocks for collective well-being and safety.
  • All of these supports and services must avoid causing further harm. They must value leadership from Black people with disabilities. They must also support leadership from other marginalized people. They must be provided in ways that work for people and respect their choices. They must be accessible, and avoid imposing cultural values.
  • Collective access and safety should be central in these efforts, not afterthoughts. The revolution will be accessible.

4. Dismantling Ableism and Decriminalizing Our Lives

  • Alternatives should not be rooted in ableism/sanism. This means we must not pathologize or medicalize people and issues (even incompetent people in power, or folks who are wildly different from normative embodiment and mental state); the goal should be not to validate the norm but to question it and shift it.
  • We must center harm reduction. We support decriminalizing drug use, sex work, panhandling, and ending other broken windows policing policies that disproportionately impact Disabled and houseless people.
  • We must fund and expand programs that provide resources and training in mediation, restitution, and accountability practices and processes to enable healing and supportive re-entry.
  • We must decriminalize and destigmatize suicide. Mandatory reporting and the criminalization of suicide discourages many people who need support from accessing resources. Because of the disinvestment in community-based and peer-led resources, people are often unable to access the support they need until they are in crisis. We must talk openly about suicide and destigmatize and decriminalize it in order to offer people the support they need.