A documentary explores the influence of Wolf Wolfensberger, a pioneer in the deinstitutionalization movement. Also, an update on Pennsylvania's Employment First legislation.
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Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

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Valuing Lives event audience
An audience member joins the discussion about the Valuing Lives documentary. 

Documentary explores pioneer whose ideas set path to deinstitutionalization


Valuing Lives panelMore than 40 people gathered to watch Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization on December 19. A wide-ranging discussion after the documentary covered the continuing struggle for full inclusion, the importance of voting, parallels to civil rights movements of other marginalized groups, and more.
Guy Caruso, co-producer of the film, Western Coordinator for the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, and Consortium steering committee member, facilitated the discussion with panelists Paula Davis, parent and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Diversity for the University of Pittsburgh’s Schools of the Health Sciences; Al Condeluci, executive director of Community Living and Support Services (CLASS) and Consortium steering committee member; John L. Tague Jr., Consortium project director; and Bob Nelkin, president and CEO of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. 
The event was presented by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University and co-sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium along with the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council and Disability Rights Pennsylvania. 

Extended interviews from the film are available online, including one with Pennsylvania's Nancy Thaler, deputy secretary of the Office of Developmental Programs for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. 

Employment First bill passes Pa. House, moves to Senate


On December 11, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the Employment First legislation long supported by disability advocates. The bill now moves to the Pennsylvania Senate as Senate Bill 21. The bill would lock in and enhance the policies set up in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Employment First executive order.
Why is this important?
Work provides dignity and independence. #IWantToWork is a self-advocacy campaign led by young people with disabilities determined to speak their minds and take their place as employed, productive members of society. On their website, they explain why the legislation matters:

“Pennsylvania has an opportunity to move from rhetoric to action by joining 22 other states in adopting Employment First  legislation and implementing policies leading to more hiring of people with disabilities and providing qualified, motivated workers for Pennsylvania businesses. By supporting Employment First legislation … we can make equal employment a reality for all Pennsylvanians with disabilities who are ready and want to work.”
What is Employment First?
The federal government’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (under the Department of Labor) says Employment First is “centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.”

The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) says “Employment First means that employment in the general workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems. Simply put, Employment First means real jobs, real wages.”

Check the current status of Senate Bill 21.

Have you taken our survey?


If you haven't taken our survey yet, please do. 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. 

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