ASAN Issues Joint Statement on Universal Human Rights

a wax stamp being placed on a parchment that says "declaration of human rights"

Joint Statement on the Universal Civil and Human Rights of People with the Most Significant Developmental Disabilities  

People with disabilities have the same civil and human rights as their peers without disabilities. Those rights are not modified, lessened, or “balanced” against other considerations because of their support needs. Every individual with a developmental disability, including those with the most significant intellectual disability, the most complex communication needs, and the most challenging behaviors, is a person with the right to:

  • Self-determination, including setting their own goals and making decisions about all aspects of their lives;
  • Community living, rather than residing in a segregated or institutional setting;
  • Education that is inclusive and promotes academic, civic, and social knowledge and skills;
  • Employment that is integrated and pays fair wages;
  • Freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including freedom from restraint, seclusion, and aversive intervention; 
  • Nondiscrimination in and equitable access to any and all needed health care; and,
  • Public policies that ensure their access to the same choices, opportunities, and experiences as people without disabilities.

The evidence is unambiguous that every person–even those with the most significant disabilities, who have complex medical, behavioral, or communication needs, or who need support 24 hours a day–can successfully learn, live, and work in the community. We also know that when people with disabilities are integrated and included in the community, they are safer, happier, gain more skills, and have a dramatically higher quality of life. We acknowledge that existing service systems may be inadequate–but we also know that practical solutions do exist to support people with the most intense needs to live full lives of meaning and purpose in their communities. The rightful focus of attention for all stakeholders must be on improving systems and scaling up high-quality community-based services, not a return to institutions.

Community living, inclusion, and self-determination are the rights of all people with disabilities. All means all. These rights are universal and apply equally and fully to all of humanity–including people with the most significant developmental disabilities, who have always been the last to be allowed their full rights. Civil and human rights are universal to all people and are not dependent on the level of support someone may require. Public policies, civil infrastructures, services, and supports for people with disabilities must be designed with this recognition. All means all.

Endorsed by:

American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 

American Association of People with Disabilities

American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)

Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE)

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Autism National Committee

Autism Society of America 

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (AWN)

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities 

National Disability Rights Network

National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC)

Spina Bifida Association


The Arc of the United States

The National Autistic Task Force

The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities

Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance

United Cerebral Palsy National

U.S. International Council on Disabilities

In Solidarity:

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL)

Center for Public Representation (CPR)

Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

National Association of the Deaf

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)

Not Dead Yet

Real National ADAPT

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

United Spinal Association

The Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports

The Society for Disability Studies













Other national disability organizations can sign on by emailing

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the autistic community run by and for autistic Americans, advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power. Our staff work to educate communities, support self-advocacy in all its forms, and improve public perceptions of autism. ASAN’s members and supporters include autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators, and friends.