An Interview with Dr. Lou Brown

The "natural proportion" guidepost or how many is too many or too few?

Produced in 1987 (Run time 2:36)

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Dr. Lou Brown: So then we started saying… We would have a segregated school, for example. In those days, we still had the remnants of a segregated school. And we'd say, "Well, if these people go to a segregated school, what's going to happen to them when they're adults?" Well, we know what's going to happen. You're going to lock them up in a day activity center. You have to because there's nothing you can teach them in a segregated school that's going to get them ready to do real things in a real world.

So we said, you know, "What is it about a segregated school? Why is it bad? I mean, why is it not right? Why doesn't it lead to where we want to go?" And we said, "There are too many people with disabilities here. There are just too many." "Well, how many is too many?" we started saying. "Well, ten, five, three, four." And we'd argue.

And then one day somebody said, "You know, how many people in nature, how many people with severe disabilities are there in nature?" And we started thinking about it. I mean, how do you want to define severe?

So we said, "Well, let's take the lowest 1% and it's something that everybody understands." Well, obviously, there is 1% of the people who are the lowest functioning that exist in nature. There are lowest cats and dogs and trees and people, so let's focus on them. Now, how many is too many of them in any one place? And we said, "If no more than 1% exist in nature, then no more should exist in any one environment." And that became one of the second most critical, most critical guideposts for us.

So then stretch that out. I mean, think of it. So we're still experiencing the limits of that, by the way. So now what does that mean if you want to live by the natural proportion? People with severe disabilities should not be congregated, to use the words that you came from, the group cluster, what have you.

Well, that means no more segregated schools, because more than 1% of the kids in the school… That means going to regular schools. And that means no more group homes. Certainly no more institutions. It means no more group homes. You know, we want no more than two people with disabilities living in a domestic environment.

Well, what about workplaces? Well, no more workshops, no more enclaves, no more retarded crews. That means we want people with severe disabilities to work next to and if like a hundred people are employed, one can be severely disabled. If it's a hospital with a thousand people, well, ten. But not only ten people in a little room doing retarded work. We're talking about dispersed, you see? You see, you're really talking about dispersion. So that…that was one of the second really, really important guideposts for us.

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