The Community Imperative

In 1979, the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University wrote The Community Imperative, a declaration supporting the right of all people with disabilities to community living. The Center has reissued The Community Imperative in 2000 and invites endorsements from individuals and organizations.

The Community Imperative was written in response to organized opposition to deinstitutionalization and community living. Specifically, The Community Imperative was intended to counter a 1978 memorandum submitted by 10 national experts in hearings in the Wyatt case in Alabama that argued that only a small number of institutional residents could be expected to adjust to community living and that training programs were inappropriate for a substantial number of them. The purpose of The Community Imperative was to establish that all human beings, regardless of nature and severity of disability, are inherently valuable, have fundamental rights, and are capable of learning, growth, and development.

Today, 21 years after The Community Imperative was written, deinstitutionalization and inclusion remain controversial in some states and localities. Current debates and controversies surrounding community living obscure fundamental disagreements over values and beliefs between those who support and those who oppose inclusion. The Center on Human Policy believes that it is necessary to focus attention on the principles underlying community inclusion. The time to debate the place of people with disabilities in the society and the community has long since passed. It is time to shift attention to assuring that community living is accomplished in a manner consistent with the values and beliefs expressed in The Community Imperative.

The Community Imperative Statement

In terms of Human Rights:

  • All people have basic human and legal rights
  • These rights must not be taken away just because a person has a mental or physical disability
  • Included in these basic rights is the right to live in the community

In terms of education and support services:

  • All people are valuable
  • All people have strength and abilities
  • All people have the right to services in their lives that support these strengths and abilities
  • These supports are best provided in the community

To meet basic human rights and get the best services, all people, no matter what their abilities, have the right to live in the community.



Individuals and Organizations can endorse The Community Imperative by contacting The Center on Human Policy by mail (Syracuse University, 805 South Crouse Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13244-2280), fax (315-443-4338), or e-mail ( Please state your endorsement of The Community Imperative and provide the following information:
Title (Optional)
Organizational Affiliation (Optional–for identification purposes only)
Mailing Address (Optional)
E-mail (Optional)

The Community Imperative Video (captioned)