ADA 30 Living Beyond Institutions and the History & Future of Accessible Transportation.  Some Consortium Staff Changes.
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Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

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

“Living Beyond Institutions” event draws large attendance

Related films remain available for viewing

August 2020 

On July 22, more than 100 attendees gathered online for a robust discussion of the history of institutions, the obstacles to living beyond the walls of institutionalized settings, current issues in community-based services, and what the future might hold.

The discussion was offered by the Western Pennsylvania Disability History Consortium, the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, and Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance in conjunction with Disability Pride Virtual PA 2020

Guy Caruso, Western Coordinator, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, facilitated the discussion. Nancy Thaler, former Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs, opened the discussion with perspectives about the lives of institutionalized people, pivotal laws and policies,  and data documenting the transition from institutional to community-based care.
Jamie Ray-Leonetti, Associate Director of Policy, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, and Debbie Robinson, Executive Director, Speaking for Ourselves, discussed current policies to end segregation in residential and employment settings, and Pennsylvania’s effort to close its remaining four state institutions.
Brenda Dare, self-advocate and Independent Living Project Manager for Transitional Paths to Independent Living, offered a call-to-action for support of initiatives that foster independent living and self-determination. Judith Gran, disability rights attorney and board member of Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance, contributed important information about future trends.

The following videos about the history of treatment of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities were offered to attendees and remain available to viewers. 

Films and Information below.  More information about the history of institutions in Western Pennsylvania is available on the Consortium's website.
From Wrongs to Rights (2013 / 8 minutes) tells the story of early 1970s activism in Western Pennsylvania that exposed the use of cages at Polk institution and led to the firing of the superintendent. The activism created momentum for the de-institutionalization movement. 



[Image of the white roof of an institutional building. The words “i go home” appear in lower case across the roof. Reproduced with permission by WITF, Harrisburg Pennsylvania]


i go home (2016 / 56 minutes) recounts the history of barring children with intellectual disability from public schools and advising parents to send them to institutions. A late-1960s Philadelphia television news expose' shed light on deplorable conditions inside the walls of Pennhurst institution and motivated the public to demand change. 

Valuing Lives: Wolf Wolfensberger and the Principle of Normalization (2015 / 57 min.) explores the principle of “normalization”—a revolutionary idea in human services in the 1970s that challenged long-held assumptions about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and became the framework for human services. The historic shift in thinking was made popular by iconoclastic professor Wolf Wolfensberger. 
Viewing Password: wolfdoc
Information about two books concerning institutionalization in Pennsylvania was also provided at the event: Pennhurst and the Struggle for Disability Rights, edited by Dennis B. Downey and James W. Conroy, and Lost in a Desert World: The Autobiography of Roland Johnson 

ADA 30th Anniversary Forum on History and Future of Accessible Transportation Set for October 8, 6 pm

Event includes film premier about advocate Paul Dick

July 26, 2020, marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an integral piece of civil rights legislation that made it a violation of federal law to discriminate against people with disabilities. On October 8, 6 pm, Heinz History Center will commemorate 30 years of the ADA with a virtual program entitled From Exclusion to Autonomy: The History and Future of Accessible Transportation in Western Pennsylvania. The event is held in partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium. 
The program will feature a discussion of the early roots of innovative accessible transportation, culminating with a discussion of current and future challenges and opportunities in inclusion and autonomy for all. For more information and to register, here is the link. If you would like the Consortium to register you or to request accommodations, email the Consortium or call 412.204.7199.
The Consortium’s short film about late Western Pennsylvania transportation advocate Paul Dick will premier at the event. The film highlights the transportation limitations Paul faced after he acquired polio in the 1950s and his role in creating Allegheny County’s ACCESS Transportation System as a model for the nation.
In partnership with the Consortium, Heinz History Center is actively collecting objects and archival materials that document the lives and historic struggles of people with disabilities to attain human and civil rights. 

[Photograph of accessibility advocates Holly and Paul Dick in front of their Chrysler Newport, which was adapted for Paul’s use in 1966. Holly and Paul Dick Family Papers and Photographs, MSS 1177, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center.] 

Best Wishes to Bridget Malley & Grant Stoner

Welcome Michelle Walker

The Consortium is saying goodbye to two members of our team, and welcoming a new colleague.
Bridget Malley, the Consortium’s preservation scholar since 2018, has moved to Chicago to take a records management position with the United States Environmental Protection Agency.   
Bridget played an important role in the Consortium’s mission, sharing disability history with the general public, as well as with professional archivists and historians. She has been the “voice” of the Consortium through our e-newsletter, website, and other communications. She also professionalized the Consortium’s database of people, places and materials that tell the story of disability history in our region.
During her tenure with the Consortium, Bridget earned her master’s degree in Library and Information Science/Archival Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her academic paper about the unique collaboration between the Western Pennsylvania disability community and museum professionals at Heinz History Center will be published in the Summer 2021 issue of American Archivist. The paper won the Theodore Calvin Pease award from the Society of American Archivists.
The Consortium is also saying goodbye to Grant Stoner, who coordinated the Consortium’s social media efforts for several months this year. Grant successfully boosted the Consortium’s social media presence during his time with us.   We wish Bridget and Grant well, and commend both of them on a job well done.
Michelle Walker has joined the Consortium as social media coordinator. Michelle is the founder of Lend an Ear Consulting, a Pittsburgh-based firm that helps organizations remove communication barriers and strengthen cultural competency.  We welcome Michelle to our team.

Photo of Michelle Walker 

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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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