The following is an excerpt of the 2000 "From Privileges to Rights" Report, published 10 years ago by the National Council on Disability, in which Dr. Dan Fisher talks about the "Fundanmental Rights" legislation in Massachusetts - the focus of our current struggle.
Sadly, things haven't changed much.
(Thanks to Dr. Fisher for permission to reprint.)
Daniel Fisher, a psychiatrist, testified that some states, such as Massachusetts, had to pass legislation to ensure the human rights of people in institutions who are labeled with psychiatric disabilities, such as the right to make a phone call or have visitors, legislation that would not be necessary if people labeled with psychiatric disabilities did not lose their ordinary citizenship rights. It is important to note that both in institutions and in community facilities, rights are referred to as "privileges" that must be earned, generally by compliance with treatment. Such so-called "privileges" as using the telephone or having access to fresh air must be recognized as basic rights that may not be infringed. Just as it would be intolerable and unacceptable for people to lose their rights when they enter a hospital for medical treatment or surgery, such policies should be similarly unacceptable in psychiatric facilities.