Frontline Initiative International

A Disability Advocacy Organization that Welcomes All


Nancy Weiss is the executive director of TASH

TASH is an advocacy organization that embraces many constituencies in its effort to eliminate physical and social obstacles that prevent equity, diversity, full community participation, and quality of life for people with disabilities. TASH asserts and supports the belief that no one with a disability should be forced to live, work or learn in a segregated setting and that all individuals and families deserve the right to direct their own lives. Since our inception almost a quarter of a century ago, TASH has built a reputation based on our uncompromising stand against the common practices of isolation, stigmatization, abuse and neglect of people with disabilities. Chapters of TASH across the country and members in 38 countries fight for a society where the inclusion of all people into all aspects of society is the norm. While TASH is not a parent, professional, or self-advocacy organization, it is comprised of people with disabilities, family members, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), other professionals, advocates, students and researchers from around the world unified by these beliefs and values.

TASH expresses its values through many means of action. This year, TASH held a national rally in Washington D.C. calling for quality, inclusive education for children with disabilities, and also held a candlelight vigil in Seattle protesting a new law in the state of Washington that does not allow institutions to be downsized or closed. This year, as part of an ongoing effort to eliminate the use of aversive procedures as a means of behavior modification, TASH established the Positive Practices Policy and Legal Action Operating Committee. Its purpose is to record the ongoing use of aversive procedures and work toward their abolishment through public policy and political action. In some public and private schools and residential facilities across the country, people with disabilities continue to be subjected to electric shock, sprayed with water, forced to inhale ammonia and ingest pepper sauce, and are pinched and hit — all in the name of “treatment.” In a recent case, the director of one school acknowledged that students, at the facility he runs were sometimes subjected to over 5,000 electric shocks a day or physically restrained for weeks at a time. It is well established that it is unnecessary to use pain or intimidation to change even the most difficult behavior problems. Many with disabilities are unable to speak out against these abuses. This newly established committee will continue to work to abolish aversive procedures by exposing these abuses, promoting positive practices, and organizing support for protective policy and legislation.

Many ask what the acronym TASH stands for. Originally, it stood for, The Association for the Severely Handicapped. The name was changed to The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps in 1983, but the acronym TASH remained. In 1995, the Board voted to maintain the acronym because it was so widely recognized but to stop using the full name of the organization because it no longer reflected current values and directions. Perhaps the best answer to the question, “What does TASH stand for?” is ...equity, diversity, and social justice.

TASH offers many timely printed and online resources about issues critical to the lives of people with disabilities, their families, DSPs, and others. TASH also offers opportunities to share personal and professional expertise with other advocates, family members, DSPs and community members, through chapter activities, and regional, national and international conferences. TASH’s Web site provides information on TASH activities, current issues in the disability field and links to other disability resources. Although TASH’s work is often on a global level, equally, if not more significantly, is the support we provide individuals with disabilities and their advocates and family members. We serve as a clearinghouse for the reporting of treatment that is unjust or that limits opportunity. We provide information, linkages with resources, expert assistance toward fighting inequities, legal expertise, and targeted advocacy. We assist individuals in need with the backing of our international network of members and the support of an organization with an unwavering commitment to social justice for all people. If you share our values and vision, we invite you to join us in membership. Together we can work to shape the future for and with people with disabilities and their families.