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Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

Western Pennsylvania Disability History & Action Consortium

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Our website offers a collection of resources about disability rights history.

Jessica Benham Makes History in Pennsylvania Election

Jessica Benham is now the first autistic person elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. She won the race for District 36 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with 62.5% of the vote.

Among Benham’s many other accomplishments, she co-founded The Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, a "grassroots self-advocacy project run by Autistic people for Autistic people” and served as Director of Development. Heavily involved in Pittsburgh disability advocacy, Pennsylvania advocates praise her historic win, and say they hope it will be a force for positive changes in Pennsylvania.
Photo of Jessica Benham. She has long brown hair and a big smile.
Photograph of Jessica Benham from her official social media campaign accounts.

No Longer Locked Away: Amplifying the Voices, Visibility and Legacy of Individuals with Mental Illness

On December 3, 2020, 1:00-3:30 pm, The Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium, in association with advocates in the mental/behavioral health community, will host a virtual event to discuss the dark history of institutionalization new models of community and alternative support. Self-advocates with lived experience will elevate the discussion on a variety of topics, including language, stigma, advocacy, access, discrimination, representation and visibility. More about our speakers below.
Photograph of Darby PenneyKeynote Speaker: Darby Penney is a long-time activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric labels, as well as policy-maker, writer, trainer, and researcher on mental health issues for 35 years. With Peter Stastny, MD, she researched and wrote The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic

Photograph of Dr. Rachel Kallem WhitmanFacilitator: Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman is an educator, advocate, and writer who, in her words, has been "shacking up" with bipolar disorder since 2000. Rachel is an adjunct professor who teaches courses on unpacking ableism. Her speeches, interviews, and writing have garnered acclaim in her hometown of Pittsburgh, and from national and international audiences. Rachel’s mission and passion is to create a safe community that empowers individuals to look beyond their illness to find themselves. For more of her work, check out Rachel’s website


Photograph of Ta’Lor PinkstonTa'lor L. Pinkston created "The Heart Advocate” effort to help individuals choose self-love as a coping skill for mental health and healing (including non-binary and transgender individuals). The Heart Advocate provides individual virtual self-love therapy, group workshops, and presentations across Pittsburgh about the importance of self-love in mental health. Ta'lor also works as the "Moving Beyond Depression" therapist at Pittsburgh’s Healthy Start Inc., where she provides Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to prenatal and postpartum mothers. Ta'lor manages a virtual self-help group, "Healing Over Everything" (H.O.E.), a safe-space and community for healing. Find The Heart Advocate on social media to learn how to defy Inner bullies, build self-worth, be body positive, and cope with mental health and healing with self-love.  

Photograph of Jason McKoyJason McKoy is a geek, graphic artist, and casual gamer who also happens to live with major depressive disorder and wild anxiety. Whilst dealing with his demons, he runs the image consultancy aptly named McKoy Creative. A lot of his work is with organizations that advocate with marginalized communities. 

Photograph of Cori FrazerCori Frazer is a multiply disabled, nonbinary licensed social worker (LSW) and activist. Having worked in progressive organizing since they were a teen, Cori spent the last decade working to help build strong, vibrant queer and disabled communities. Co-founder of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA), Cori’s work reflects their deep belief in interdependence and liberatory praxis. Under Cori’s leadership and practice of innovative models of community support and mutual aid, PCAA has served hundreds of disabled adults in western and central Pennsylvania.

Have you taken our survey?

Please take our survey about disability history if you haven't already done so. The Consortium serves as a clearinghouse for records and artifacts that tell the story of disability rights history and activism in Western Pennsylvania. 

If you know of such items or information, we'd like to add them to the listings on our website. If you need help preserving them, we can help with that too. 

Contact us at

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