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Norm Kunc| What’s Your Credo?

Norm Kunc

Norm Kunc

Every day people challenge me:

Why do I believe what I believe?

What’s wrong with the Medical Model?

What’s wrong with the Charity Model?

What’s the big deal about “normalization” and “inclusion”?

Why is “special” not special?

Most times the conversations are stressful–the whole paradigm shift thingy. Most people don’t want to take the time to understand or learn a whole new way of looking at the world. They think their view of the world is just fine, thank you very much.

As parents, we have been learning for 30-40 years, our child’s whole lifetime. Our child demands we still learn every day.

For the next couple days, I’m going to be sharing some of the people who shaped my beliefs. Here is Norm Kunc.

I am hoping they can deliver the message of “normalization” far better than I ever could.

Norm Kunc changes lives.

I would spend the whole year teaching university students and teachers about the need for inclusion, normalization, self-advocacy, people first… and they would nod their heads (or scratch their heads at the crazy lady), pass their tests, and go on with the way they always did things.

Norm Kunc came to campus, spoke to these same students and in fifteen minutes–he rocked their world.

That quick–his message is that powerful.

Here is Norm and Emma Kunc’s website. I’ll write more about them in another post, but if you get a chance book them or attend one of their presentations. It will change your life.

Here is Norm’s Credo of Support. It is not the same as hearing him in person, but the video message shows the power of words and the talents of self-advocates. When Norm introduces the video he says the words just poured out of his heart.

Here’s hoping it touches your heart too.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,


Talk about it!

What did you think of the Credo of Support? Do you think the message is stronger coming from self-advocates? What is your personal credo? Can you think of ways people with disabilities can give their own message?

Would you like to hear more about Norm and his wife Emma’s work?

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57 Responses to “Norm Kunc| What’s Your Credo?”

  • Regena says:

    Everyone loves it whenever people get together and share ideas.
    Great website, continue the good work!
    Regena recently posted..Regena

  • Jacob says:

    You never realize how people talk until you really think about it. I here people say all the time,” the disabled person” and no one thinks twice. Since I have started this course I have caught myself correcting other people without even thinking. The people first activity really helped too. It helped show you all the wrong examples and really made an impact. It showed that logically they are people just like you and me. So why do people look at there disablility? It seems some people cant look pass the disability and see that we are all equal. This video is really impacting. This is something I can use the rest of my life to help people understand.

  • Jacob says:

    It is hard to even fathem that people in our society have abandon at birth, banished from society, used at court gestures etc. and still continue to be segregated. That just so rediculous. The people in this video were very heart warming and great eye openers for our society. A gentlmen in the video said recognize that his disability is an attribute. That is a great way to look at it! This video is so inspiring. I understand throughout this course This has been the goal to understand but this video is a GREAT tool to show people that everyone is a person, and everyone has feelings and everyone has different attributes. I will use this video all throughout my career as a teacher and as a citizen to help people understand that these people are one of us not just one of “them”. In reality, there is now them, its all us!

    • Mary says:

      Well said Jacob. We’re all US! says it all. Norm and each of the people in this video would give a cheer at your words.

  • Aaron says:

    Hi Mary – I’ve seen this video so many times and it still blows me away. Interestingly I was sharing it with a class of students learning PATH today – teachers and other professionals who work in our field. I was so surprised, as I always am, that they didn’t know it. I particularly like the folks at the end of the video and how the idea of waiting until someone says what they are going to say is embedded in the video. If I can add a few things. I always talk about the Credo for Support as one of the great documents of Canadian Literature, and I think the only reason it is not known as that is because it is about people with disabilities. But it is a radical and transformational work of art, on top of being a great instruction to us all. I also think it is interesting that people forget, all the time, that it is the joint work of Norm and his wife Emma Van der Klift – they would both be considered brilliant in any incarnation. Norman, an ardent feminist and deeply appreciative of his partner in life and work, will never take credit for this without talking about Emma as the co-writer. As their kids have grown up, Emma has gone on to do amazing work on her own around mediation and her thesis work on conflict resolution in the world of hostage negotiators and what that information brings to our field, while continuing with Norman to do some of the best thinking around person-centredness and systems change. Brilliant. I would also say that some of your writings about Aaron and your unravellings of how the system interacts with him and your family are right up there with Norm and Emma’s work in terms of being transformational and unforgettable. thanks for sharing this 🙂

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Oh Aaron,
      We really do need to meet and talk someday. I am so humbled you would even mention my name with Norm and Emma’s in the same paragraph.

      You’re right, Credo of Support is a transformational work of brilliance. I never thought of it in terms of the “great documents of Canadian literature” but you’re absolutely right.

      I also think Norm and Emma’s “Conversations that matter” is brilliant. So many of our colleagues are retiring and their great messages will be lost. Each of them are immortalized in the “Conversations” videos. We wait for future generations to “research” the past history—when we have the opportunity to document the history with the real pioneers who made it happen. I love seeing these friends like Anne Donnellan, John O’Brien, Pat Amos–it gives me comfort on my down days.

      This semester, I have a wonderful group of young future teachers, but Credo –is an assignment. I don’t know if they can possibly understand it’s powerful message. We talked about “paradigms” today. We can only hope they will be able to move us into the future. But the many paradigms in Norm and Emma’s video are really paradigm shifts they have never thought about.

      BTW: Do you show this version of Credo, or the one with the “Mission” music. I have a hard time deciding which I like best. They both give me goose bumps.

      • Aaron says:

        i use this one because i love the guy who has trouble speaking and how the video just waits for him… it reminds me of this fellow in People First when i was helping out at a conference, and there was an open mike, and this woman got up and she pretty much inarticulate. I was just embarrassed for her and waiting for her to stop. and my friend Jerry, who was hosting, just held the space and then when she was done, there was this rousing ovation, and he said her talk was a great reminder of many things, and the ovation made him proud because it meant that they too understood that their job was to listen to each other until they understood what was being said, in this moment and in some cases as the years passed. and then my friend Lorie got up and said that she thought that the speaker was one of our future leaders, and that five years ago at her first conference she wasn’t able to stand up and speak in front of a crowd. another big ovation. and the follow year, when the same woman got up to take the mike, I could understand half of what she said, and she’s brought her best friend, who helped us understand the second half. and it was really important stuff. it was one of my big moments in People First. and yes we do have to meet one day but we have a pretty good time thinking things through across the distance 🙂 take care.
        Aaron recently posted..“Shiny Gold Pebbles” has been claimed-details to come about the Charity….

    • mary says:

      Oh Aaron, what a fabulous story. Have you told that to Norm and Emma? That should be on one of their “Conversations that Matter.” I wonder what that woman thought as she was going through this. That would also be a terrific segment on “Conversations…” Wow!

      You always give me hope and some concrete story to think about. That is a blessing my friend. 🙂 Thanks.

  • Annie Helffrich says:

    I really did enjoy this video. It’s a lot more powerful to see the people with disabilities explain how they want to be treated rather than any other person telling you about them. I think people don’t know how to talk and treat people with disabilities because they don’t know enough about them. If people are educated on the topic of all or most disabilities then people wouldn’t need to be told to treat them like everyone else. They are like everyone else and it takes something like this video to see that. I think this video should be showed in schools everywhere to educate kids and teens and even adults on this matter. What’s sad is that people actually don’t treat these people the same. I couldn’t believe what I heard in the beginning of the video. Nobody should ever be treated harshly just because something is different about them. Hopefully if people are more educated, everyone can be seen as the same.

  • Hannah Lehn says:

    I think this was an amazing video! It really showed how people with disabilities feel about themselves and how they want to be treated by others. I think a lot of people do not know how to interact with people who have disabilities. This I think gives people the chance to be more comfortable with people who have disabilities because it shows their perspective on how they would like to seen and treated. This video also shows that people who have disabilities are self defiant and just as capable to express themselves just like anyone else.

  • Beth Noble says:

    I think this video was awesome. It showed the perspective of individuals with disabilities and how they want to be seen as equals. This video should be seen by everyone. Society as a whole has labeled people that have disabilities and often forget that they too have feelings and are equally as important as anyone else. It also shows that individuals with disabilities will accept help if desired, but also wish to have a sense of self-advocacy. This video is very eye-opening and should be seen by everyone.

  • Leah Brubaker (student) says:

    I absolutely loved this video! It truly is touching to see how people with a disability feel about themselves and how they wish to be seen by others. These individuals are people with feelings, personalities, and voices just like anyone else—disability or not. It is unfortunate how more times than less people with differences do in fact get treated differently when that should not be the case. These self-advocates have powerful voices that need to be heard. My favorite was the man who said, “Be my ally against those who exploit me for their own gratification.” I hate it, but there are people out there who do not do kind things for others and to make them feel good but only to make themselves feel good!!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      You are right Leah, we need to hear the voices of self-advocates (and I would add their families). Let me know what you think of the next articles about “Charity and Love”– 🙂

  • emily johnston says:

    I really like this video. It really makes you think about people with disabilities as people like everyone else. Just because they are different doesn’t mean that they don’d like being different. They just want to be seen like anyone else would be. If someone with a disability wants to needs help they will ask someone, people cant just assume that they can’t do anything on their own. The beginning of the video is very powerful and really grabs your attention and almost makes you keep watching which I thin is very important and especially for how great and powerful the message is in the video. It was definitely worth watching!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      This is my favorite way to start out. Everything else we do and say is really just the practical way to make this “credo” happen. 🙂 Glad you’re with us Emily.

  • Lisa Gasparec says:

    I felt this was a very heat warming video. It’s upsetting that people don’t treat people with disabilities equally. This video makes me want to help more with special education and help people understand they are just like us.

  • Anna Taylor says:

    It’s a disturbing fact that in history people with disabilities were subjected to horrible abuse and discrimination. It’s a shame that it has been such a long journey requiring laws and education to change the view of the way a person without disabilities thinks and treats a person with disabilities. I thought this video was very moving and I feel a tremendous gratitude for these individuals for sharing their feelings. You could see the determination in their eyes as they delivered their important message to us. Their legacy will change the views of many people and make our world a better place. I enjoyed all of the quotes but I especially like “Do not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen. See me as your neighbor. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient”. He wants us to know that we need to treat disabled individuals as we would treat our fellow citizen and neighbor. He can be just as sufficient as any other person. He can hold a job, own a house, can marry and have a family. We shouldn’t look at people with disabilities as being so different from the rest of individuals without disabilities. He’s right, none of us can be totally self-sufficient while he may require more assistance than most of us he shouldn’t be treated or viewed differently. I have relatives with disabilities and they just want to be seen like everyone else in other people’s eyes.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      You can see the determination in their eyes. The video is indeed powerful and you quoted a great concept. Self-sufficiency is a myth. We are all interdependent. Thanks Anna.

  • Amna Fazlani says:

    I appreciate that this video does not attempt to sugarcoat the issue of equality between people with disabilities and society. The inclusion of self-advocates has a slightly jarring effect, but in the best of ways. It is jarring not because the words are spoken by people with disabilities, but because people with people disabilities are speaking directly to the society that demeans them. The statements of the advocates would be powerful on paper; however, attaching a face and voice to the advocates’ statements amplifies their impact. I believe that people with disabilities are able to defend themselves and fight their own battles; however, society often speaks for them. This video gives people with disabilities the opportunity to define themselves. My personal credo would be “I have a voice, let me speak, and listen carefully.” There cannot be progress without understanding, and understanding stems from communication. People with disabilities can give their own message through art, music, writing, speaking—in any way that they feel comfortable. Society’s mistake is limiting communication to conventional methods or trying to force a overcomplicated, unconventional method of communication onto individuals with disabilities. If a person wants to tell their story, how they tell it should be up to them.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Love your passion Amna. We do need to listen carefully. Did you get to see Aimee Mullin’s video?–I think you will like that video too.

  • Abbey Toepfer says:

    I loved everything about this video! This video is especially stronger than others because it not only provides a wonderful message, but it includes self-advocates. Seeing these self-advocates express their true emotions and feelings regarding this issue really hits home with me and I’m sure it does with other viewers. My favorite quote was “Do not try to be my friend, I deserve more than that. Get to know me and we may become friends”. This was extremely moving and important to me because everyone deserves to be treated equally with respect. Schools around the world should show this video to students because it is extremely effective in motivating the public to take action and change their behavior.

    I think the public needs to put themselves in the shoes of these advocates. Would you want to be looked at differently every time you try to do a task on your own? They should have the freedom of asking for help if THEY want it. Looking at things from a different perspective always helps me understand the feelings of others and I believe the public should do this also. This way, we will be motivated to make a change!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Glad you liked the video Abbey. I get chocked up every time I see it. Norm and his wife Emma keep doing amazing things. Thanks.

  • Paige Francis says:

    This video is really powerful. This video shows that people with disabilities are people just like everyone else. They should be treated the same way that everyone is treated. If these people want help they should be able to get it, but if they don’t want it they should be able to say no. Also this video makes me think about how many of these people want help, or do they just want to do things on their own. This video made me really think about how these people feel about getting help from the people around them. I never really thought that the people might not want the help other people give to them. It made me think a lot about that they just want to be treated like everyone else is and do things on their own. Like I said in the beginning this video is very powerful and really makes me think about people with disabilities and how they feel.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      I agree Paige, it is powerful. Giving/not giving help is tricky if we try to think about it from our perspective. Once we decide EVERYONE is different–then we can better accept individual choices–whether we think it makes sense to us or not. Thanks.

  • We watched this video in my Individuals with Exceptionalities class and it really hit home. They are just trying to make their way in the world and be normal. We shouldn’t try to help them if they don’t want it. People with disabilities are their own people too. They have rights and should be able to live their lives to the fullest just as you and I are. I have had co-workers with special needs and it really makes me look at them in a different light. If they are criticized, I should stick up for them and stand behind them because in God’s eyes, we are all equal and deserve the same respect.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Hi Jessica,
      It’s a great video and it’s neat the way that people who couldn’t use “verbal words” still were part of the video.
      It is often hard to know when to help and when not to. You’re right the best way is to ask, “What can I do to help?” “Would you like some assistance with that?” There are many times in my life I wish I could have had a re-do, but I guess that’s what learning is all about.
      It’s neat that you have co-workers with special needs. You’ll have to tell us more about them. It’s really tricky, sometimes if they are criticized (with caring) it helps them learn and do the job better. If it is mean–then of course, they need an advocate to stick up for them. It makes me smile to think you are there to support them in a kind way.

  • Maci Feser says:

    This video made me think about a lot of things on a lot of different levels. The phrase that grabbed my attention was, Do not help me, even if it does make you feel good. I had to think about this one for a second. It seems like the universal thing to do, to help someone who is considered “disabled”. Most of the time we feel the need to do this because it makes us feel better and in the public eye it just seems appropriate. However something that we often consider doing a good deed may only result in self satisfaction. What I think is hard to grasp is that they can and want to be independent, and not having someone cater to their every need is a step towards that goal of being independent.

  • Marissa White says:

    I loved every aspect of this video! The beginning really opened my eyes as to how poorly people with disabilities have been treated over the years. It makes me sick to think that someone with a disability was seen as a “joke” and was used for entertainment!

    I think that everyone should watch this video. I loved how they incorporated people with disabilities into it. It really is an eye opener and it touched my heart to hear them speak their opinions. I realized that even though it may feel good to try and help someone with a disability, that may not be what they necessarily want. Equality is so important, and we need to realize that even though someone might be different from you, we all deserve the same rights!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      I love this video too. It is hard to think of treating people so poorly. The “asking people if they want help” is hard to learn because we have years of experience just jumping in. Thanks Marissa for your comments. You are right, “Equality is so important.”

  • Paige Gieske says:

    I liked this video a lot. In the beginning, it talked about the unfairness that people with disabilities experienced, such as what happened to them with Nazi Germany. This video makes me, and hopefully others, realize that people with disabilities are just like us and they too have feelings. My favorite part of the video was, “Do not try to fix me because I am not broken.” Their disabilities are an attribute, as the video says. It is up to us to try to spread the word that people with disabilities should not be treated differently. They deserve the same kind of respect as anyone else does.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Hi Paige,
      “Do not try to fix me because I am not broken.” is one of my favorite lines too. I agree, it is a powerful video. Maybe you can help us spread the word. Thanks.

  • Katherine Schmittou says:

    I had never considered many of these viewpoints before seeing this video, and watching it makes me wish that people everywhere could be better educated on how to interact with people living with disabilities. I for one am very glad I saw this video since I was one of those people who would just help someone before even asking. I now see how this can be wrong since many people (disability or no disability) want to be able to be independent and not have to rely on others for help. Yes there may be some cases where individuals will need assistance, but it is good to allow people to figure out on there own if they need assistance. By asking someone if they need help, you give them the decision to accept or to try to overcome an obstacle on their own.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Okay Katherine, now it is up to you to spread the word. 🙂 It is tricky sometimes because even people who have the label of disabilities often don’t know how to act. Do they try to do it, even if it takes longer? Are they being considerate to the “normal” people? “Do they fit in?”… The bottom line is we all want to belong. And our love and caring will come through no matter how we mess up.

  • Sadie Sneider says:

    I found Norm Kunc’s perspective on how would like to be treated very interesting. Being the person I am, I would always try to help someone who has a disability. I think that looking at his feelings through a different point of view really broadened my perspective toward the disabled because I see that they may not always want to be helped. They see their disability as an asset and like to be treated as any other person. This makes sense, but to me it almost seemed as if he may get annoyed when others try to help. He wants to do everything himself unless he asks for help. Norm Kunc has a very good point that most of us would never even realize if we had not seen it from the other person’s shoes.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Hi Sadie,
      Norm is a very competent person. So, it makes sense he would want to do it himself or ask. Norm is comfortable asking. Plus, his wife, kids, friends are often with him and they know what he likes and dislikes.

      Many other people with disabilities or their families don’t have a good network of support and they desperately want help but are afraid to ask, or have asked in the past and were given a “No”.

      You are right we all have to look at it from the other person’s shoes. But that also means you have to be willing to see individual people in individual shoes. Everyone wants something different.

      One of the things Norm always stresses in his speeches–I do not represent all people with disabilities. I only represent ME! That is what is so difficult about knowing what to do, what is respectful.

      What I have learned to do is ask a person, “How can I help.” And, I am also trying to be better about asking for help when I need it–and that is tough.

      Great comment. Thanks.

  • Andrew Depoe says:

    This video is definitely an eye-opener and a must-see video for people in society. Norm Kunc’s Credo of Support shows people in society how treat those who are physically or mentally disabled through people with disabilities. It’s a first person account on the subject that society needs to hear. Because most people are uninformed and uneducated on the matter. The sad truth is that some people are ignorant and will continue to treat people with disabilities harshly, but if people view this video, maybe things can get on the right track.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      You are right Drew. The video with people with disabilities saying the words (some with cards) is POWERFUL! Maybe you can help spread the word to your family and friends and help the credo come true.

  • Taylor Woellert says:

    I really enjoyed this video and I will try to practice what its message is saying. My favorite line was “Do not try to be my friend, I deserve more than that. Get to know me and we may become friends”. I think too many people today try to do “the right thing” because people are watching. They are helping people with disabilities because they want the gratification and want to be in a positive light, simply because society says it is what you are supposed to do. People with disabilities are no less of a person than people without disabilities. They deserve to be treated like anyone else without pity.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      You are right Taylor. We have done so many “good things” that were not actually “good things.” And it is all about the motivation and world-view of the people doing the doing. There is a great book by Joe Shapiro called “NO PITY.” “I deserve more than that” is a hard concept for many people to understand. This can make a difference in each of our friendships.

  • Andrea Middendorf says:

    Norm Kunc’s Credo of Support made me think more deeply about this topic than I ever have. He made me look at the situation from a different light, and I will definitely keep this in mind from now on. My favorite line was “Respect me, for respect presumes equity.” I read once that you should keep your thoughts positive, because thoughts become attitude, attitude becomes behavior, behavior becomes habit, and habit becomes character. If we respect others, it will go back through this continuum and change our attitude, and our thoughts.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Andrea, you are really a good writer. I got goose bumps just reading your reply. We do need positive thoughts to move to positive behavior. I think that is what is so moving about Norm’s video. He starts out in despair and horrific phrases then tells us what he wants to happen. Norm has many videos on You-Tube if you ever feel the urge. “Equity” is a hard concept. Much difference than “equal.” Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Abby Recker says:

    I liked this video because it gave really good quotes as to why everyone should be looked at as equal. The quote “Remember none of us can be self-sufficient” demonstrates a good point everyone needs help. I would not want to be looked at as a lesser person every time I asked a question, just as someone with a disability does not want to be looked at any differently because they need help doing certain tasks. Also how the end of the video concluded with, “Do not work on me work with me” shows that people with disabilities are not objects they are people just like everyone else and want to be treated like everyone else.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Good points Abby. None of us can be self-sufficient–and that is both a challenge and an opportunity. Our American culture keeps talking about Independence, when what we really need is Interdependence. Don’t you wonder why our culture makes us feel “lesser” if we don’t know everything? Your examples of asking questions and asking for help are right on. We ALL depend on each other. I also agree with, “Do not work on me, work with me.” That is just a profound difference from the traditional roles of teachers and therapists. Thanks for your comments.

  • Jeanie says:

    I think a HUGE part of others not grasping the concepts of inclusion and normalization, is that their minds aren’t open enough to accept it. Most will never encounter another person like Aaron, and if they do, they avoid the situation so they don’t really ever understand, and it’s sad to miss out on him! Have you checked out the National Inclusion Project? I looked at it after Clay Aiken was on Celebrity Apprentice and I had no idea he had founded a non-profit to get children with disabilities included with others. I’ll have to think a little bit longer about how to get others to open up and to help you explain normalization. Here is the website for the National Inclusion Project

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Hi Jeanie,

      I just checked out the INclusion Project and it looks great. I liked their facebook page and signed up for their newsletter.

      You are right that Aaron has a personality and unique gifts that others would miss if they have poor attitudes and stereotypes. When caring people treat Aaron like an adult–he acts like one. If they baby him or do things for him, he can do for himself, then he loses skills and his self-dignity. Attitudes are everything.

      Thanks for being one of those caring people and treating Aaron like an adult. We need more people like you.

  • In my kid’s school they do this too. And again it’s for a day or so during first grade and then not again.

    However, I was struck by how this experience set them up for a difficult life lesson when a 7yo classmate was enduring chemotherapy and unable to walk visited in a wheelchair one day. How sensitive the kids were, how accepting and openly curious they were of her changed facial features, her lost hair and weak limbs. They were prepped for the experience and debriefed afterwards giving them plenty of time to think through the whole experience both from their perspective *and hers.* She sadly lost her life and we had more sessions processing that experience too. These inclusion lessons come to us from many angles.
    Alison Golden recently posted..Warrior Woman Wrap-Up- One Year Ago

  • Leigh says:

    Love it! – should show this in every school at every grade level. I think we (as a society) need to cultivate a practice of respect for people with differences.

    The questions for me and we’ve brought this up before on CEM) is how do we do this is an environment where, for the last 100 years, behavioralism for the benefit of the few is the mechanism of our society.

    But you’re right, the only real remedy is to go out in real life and meet with, talk with, and experience first hand how others live.

    I am forever grateful that my elementary school in the early 80’s did a training day for the “regular” students when they started classes for the
    special students. The teachers came in and we had a fun assembly where the new special teachers taped up our fingers, blind folded us – and otherwise impaired us — It really was fun sensitivity training. Anyway, they only did that once and that’s a shame. But it think it’s a good practice – the zen of buttoning a shirt with no thumb!

    Anyway, sorry to ramble. Thanks for the post Mary. Cheers!

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      HI Leigh, you don’t ramble, you brought up some great points. I wish everyone would also see this video. I used to love the one with the music from “Mission” but I love hearing and seeing the people tell the story better.

      You reminded me of a friend, Nancy Kayes made a program called “Everybody counts” it was a wonderful introduction to people with different labels. Hope they are still using it.

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