If you think you are handicapped, you might as well stay indoors. If you think you're a person first, come out and tell the world!Ray Loomis
One of the first self-advocacy groups in America was based in Omaha, Nebraska. It was called Project II.
Project I had been the setting up of the ENCOR (Eastern Nebraska Community Office of Retardation) service to bring people with learning difficulties from the Omaha area out of the State Institution which was 130 miles away. ENCOR was established in 1969, and Project II began in about 1974. (Incidentally, Omaha was the place where the concept of Citizen Advocacy was founded, also in the context of the establishment of ENCOR.)
Ray Lommis had been a resident in the State Institution. When he returned to live in Omaha he became a founder member and first chairperson of Project II. He had a saying, with which he sought to inspire others with learning difficulties to join the self-advocacy group: If you think you are handicapped, you might as well stay indoors. If you think you're a person first, come out and tell the world!
After the founding of several other self-advocacy groups in Nebraska, a state-wide conference led to the setting up of an umbrella group for the state, and it was decided to call it (after Ray Loomis's saying) People First Nebraska. This was the first use of the term 'People First' and the story explains the origin of the name, now used by self-advocacy groups all over the world.
Tom Houlihan was a man with Down's syndrome who was a prominent member of Project II and People First Nebraska. He visited Britain in the early 1980s and influenced many people who met him.
This presentation will briefly tell the stories of Ray and Tom and their pioneer achievements as founders of the self-advocacy movement.
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