Future Strategy: The Struggle for Disability Rights in an Era of Decline and Constraint

A large number of ADAPT members discussing strategy for their Action in Washington, D.C.
ADAPT Members Preparing for Active Resistance

I believe that the core of life is the creation and sharing of meaning. It is easy to forget this core when things are going along smoothly and we can ignore most of what passes before us without any great risk.

That time is past.

We live in a period of intense volatility, and we not only lack tools for dealing with such rapid and unpredictable change, we carry with us a set of assumptions about how our society works that might have been useful as rules-of-thumb in the past, but are no longer so.

In fact, these assumptions drive us to make poor choices, triggering changes and consequences we can’t predict, and forcing more poor choices on us.

The only way to manage this astounding level of uncertainty is to craft a strategy that will provide us with a framework for making difficult and tentative decisions over and over.

Nowhere is this change in how we make choices more important than in the disability community.

As all of you are aware, our struggles to build access, inclusion, and choice into our society have stalled and retreated at the Federal level because of the actions of the current administration. But, our progress has always been incremental and hard-fought, requiring persistence and a relentless commitment to our values over decades.

Now, while persistence and relentless commitment will still be very important, there are many forces that will actively work to undermine and destroy the progress we have made.

I want to talk to you about our struggle for rights in the larger context of long-term changes in our society that are now and will be constricting our community’s social and political capacity to innovate and expand freedom and choice for ourselves. The legislative and regulatory frameworks we have used for progress in past decades are currently eroding, and it isn’t clear that we can stop that erosion, much less reverse it.

In addition, there are large social forces that will make those legislative and regulatory frameworks less effective even as we succeed in defending them against attack.

In the future, it will not be enough for us to demand our rights. We will also have to create the social frameworks within which our rights will have real meaning and through which we can live fulfilling lives of choice.

We will not be able to depend on others for the success of these efforts.

Overview Over: On To the Feature Presentation!

Big Screens of young man showing his software in a Serbian competition.
On To the Deep Framework

I’ve made my last post in the FutureStrategy Overview. Obviously, the posts from the Overview will remain available for review if the going gets tough with the deep framework posts coming next.

The full presentation of the deep framework is 56 slides long and each slide is packed with notes, resource links, quotes and what have you. I’ll be reformating the slides so they work better in a blog post. If you have questions, you can put them into the comments and I’ll answer them.

Although I would be happy to do presentations on the ideas in this deep framework, the reality is that it is a long slog as a whole, and I divided it into a number of parts, each being a presentation in itself and running about two hours per part.

I hope some of what follows will prove useful to you and our community in the years ahead.

We Need A Strategy!

What is a Strategy? It is hard to show your skill as a sailor when there is no wind. ― Richard P. Rumelt
We Need a Strategy!

Our community’s struggle in regard to the larger society is very much like the situation described in the quote. Constant efforts at resistance, while necessary, and unavoidable, will not resolve those large forces that are gradually degrading the foundation of our current forms of personal and community support.

We need more than a set of advocacy and resistance techniques, and we need much more than any savior or ideology that might exist in the larger complex system could offer.

Our usual approach to big-picture barriers is an operational plan, with tasks and measurable outcomes. But an operational plan is not nearly enough. An operational plan simplifies and reduces potential outcomes by its very nature, and ignores available resources in the pursuit of apparent predictability.

We need an approach that actually fits our community, that values our freedom and choice in support of the unique dreams of each of us.

We need a Strategy.

A strategy is a way to organize our change efforts around two unavoidable realities:

  • The unpredictability of the future.
  • The relentless scarcity of resources (in all the forms those resources might take).

Aligning our change efforts means that we match all our available resources to all of the outcomes we dream of achieving and is called a Grand Strategy.