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Read: What do Human Rights Mean to You?

In celebration of Universal Human Rights Month in December, we asked the Nonotuck community to anonymously let us know what the term “human rights” meant to them. The responses ranged from lengthy to brief, but all deeply personal reflections by our employees on what this important concept means to them.

See the answers below:

What do Human Rights mean to you?

1.    “To me, Human Rights means allowing people to live freely on their own terms. To be respected, protected and heard regardless of race, sex or nationality.”

2.    “Human Rights hold a profound and personal significance for me, shaped by my experiences and engagement in various social justice movements. My journey with Human Rights began in the 1960s when, as a teenager, I witnessed the fervent struggle for rights by Black Americans on television. This exposure ignited a sense of awakening within me, prompting my active involvement in the Civil Rights Movement during my high school and college years. In the late 1970s, my advocacy expanded as I became a part of the movement for the rights of the disabled. Over the past four decades, championing the cause of disabled individuals has not only been my passion but has also become the cornerstone of my career and a significant part of my life. The fight for the advancement of rights for the disabled has been a continuous journey, marked by dedication and a commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. For me, Human Rights are not abstract principles but a lived experience intertwined with the struggles, victories, and progress made in the pursuit of justice and equality. It is a commitment to upholding the dignity and rights of every individual, regardless of their background, abilities, or circumstances. My journey has taught me that the fight for Human Rights is an ongoing endeavor, and through personal engagement and advocacy, we contribute to building a world where everyone's rights are recognized, respected, and protected.”

3.    “Treating everyone with respect regardless of race, religion, physical or mental ability.”

4.    “Human rights is our ability to make informed decisions about our present and future. We can dictate what we want in life and how we want to do it. Human rights should be taken seriously especially when talking about people who are in services as often times their rights are infringed upon without their knowledge or consent. There is no excuse to not take the time to ask what someone wants for themselves.”

5.    “Norms or standards of Values /morals/behaviors that are protected and makes us humane which differentiate us from other species. The recognition and respect of these human rights.”

6.    “Having rights that all persons on earth should have.”

7.    “Respecting human rights {is} an integral part of our job. Individuals with developmental disabilities are historically underserved. We must ensure that we are teaching and training providers and staff to be cognizant of human rights and not to impose any unnecessary restrictions.”

8.    “Being born entitles one to several respectful rights that are allowed to define a person, sustain their vitality, and quench their soul. They are not able to be influenced by anyone as they are intrinsic to that person. They are eternally enriching and ever evolving. These are our human rights.

9.    Human Rights are a daily blessing and a daily concern to me! I consider them some of the most sacred human constructs ever. They exist as concepts and have been made more real through some of the most amazing and elevated writing and social organization and actions ever undertaken. Yet at the same time, I feel they exist naturally and part of our essential human character. They make us the best of who we can be both in terms of how we view and value ourselves and how we respect and treat each other. They inform us of who we can and should endeavor to be and what we can and should try to create in this world of ours. They form the very backbone of our best social mores, our happiest and most equitable cultures and the most effective laws and essential protections. Tomes have been written on the subject and for good reason. They should remain sacred to us all as a world without these protections is a dark and dangerous one. And a world subject to the dangers brought about by those who seek to exploit us and divide us and treat us as less than the humans with inherent value that we all have. Rights mean equity, justice, fair play, opportunity, hope and a chance at a life worth living in a world worth protecting. I've often heard rights related organizations use terms like "our rights can't protect themselves". And it's so true. They need us to value them, to honor them and remain aware of their fragility and need to be protected and strengthened for us to be our very best as people. By remaining aware of our rights, we are reminded of the rights of others in our world...those that can speak and advocate for themselves, but more importantly for those who cannot. As with any process of growth and maturation, one eventually recognizes the essential role we play in protecting, developing and upholding the things of value to us. We go from being the happy beneficiaries of rights to those with the very sober and essential role of protecting and safeguarding what we've often been protected and safeguarded by! It seems a huge responsibility in a world that often doesn't value others and often does just the opposite. And it is. But our rights make us the best version of ourselves we can be and the actions we take to protect and develop them must be some of the most noble actions we can undertake as humans.”

10. “Being heard, validated, worthy, freedoms/liberty, happiness, balance.”

11. “Human Rights mean to me is that I have a choice to decide and being treated with respect and dignity.”

12. “Human Rights transcend judgement, opinion, and prejudice. They are as much part of us as the souls we bear and as necessary as the air we breathe. Human Rights protect us from unjust discrimination and remind us that we are more similar to one another than we are different. It is our responsibility as humans to upload these rights for not only ourselves, but one another.”

13. “Treating everyone with dignity and respect regardless of ability, race, who they love, cultural background or political affiliation.”

14. “Peace of mind knowing that certain liberties are guaranteed to me regardless of gender, color, etc.”

15. “Dignity, respect, equality. The ability to make your own decisions regarding your life.”

16. “Human Rights are the fabric of how we treat people not only with IDD or ASD but everyone in our society. All should be treated with dignity, kindness and respect.”

17. “I recently saw an interview on Yeon-mi Park who was a North Korean Defector and now a Human rights activist and writer. In one of her interviews she stated and I quote ‘The fact that you can be depressed or traumatized in the U.S. that is a privilege.’ This statement can be so simple but yet profound. Human rights to me is having the autonomous freedom from oppression and injustice no matter your birth place, your skin color, your sexual identity, your religion, your economic and education status. No government, entity, company or human being should have the autocratic power to take away one's own right to live and how one should feel or think.”


“(Through shared living) people with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.”

Caregiving with Love:
Guide for Shared Living Providers

Learn how Nonotuck developed a love-based ideology of care. We started our shared living program as an alternative to group homes for people with disabilities. Instead, Shared Living creates genuine life transformation for people with disabilities, as well as families and communities. The true power of caregiving is found through hospitality, authenticity, and love.

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