Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.

Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

Western Pennsylvania Disability History & Action Consortium

Visit our website!

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

Register Now for Virtual Forum on Accessible Transportation 


Thursday, October 8, 2020, 6:00 - 7:30 pm
From Exclusion to Autonomy: The History and Future of Accessible Transportation in Western Pennsylvania

Register online for this event

Black and white photograph of accessibility advocates Holly and Paul Dick in front of their Chrysler Newport, which was adapted for Paul’s use in 1966.  (From the Holly and Paul Dick Family Papers and Photographs, MSS 1177, Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center.
Accessibility advocates Holly and Paul Dick in front of their Chrysler Newport, which was adapted for Paul’s use in 1966
Remember to register to join the Heinz History Center and the Western Pennsylvania Disability History & Action Consortium on Thursday, October 8, from 6:00 - 7:30 pm, as we celebrate 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with a virtual program entitled “From Exclusion to Autonomy: The History and Future of Accessible Transportation in Western Pennsylvania.”
The program will explore the early roots of innovative accessible transportation in Allegheny County, culminating with a discussion of current and future challenges and opportunities.  Panelists include Karen Hoesch, current executive director of ACCESS Transportation Systems, and Holly Dick, former Community Liaison for ACCESS Transportation Systems. Introductory remarks will be delivered by John Tague, longtime advocate for people with disabilities.

We are excited to announce that the Consortium’s short film about late Western Pennsylvania transportation advocate Paul Dick will premiere at the event. The film highlights the transportation limitations Paul faced after he was diagnosed with polio in the 1950s, and his role in shaping Allegheny County’s ACCESS Transportation System as a model for the nation.

Also celebrating 30 years of ADA, the Port Authority of Allegheny County recently produced a 4-minute video highlighting disability accommodations and resources available to riders, including online trip planning, real-time arrival vehicle tracking, how to request materials in accessible formats, and when to ask the operator for assistance. The video also provides helpful information about ACCESS, an advance reservation, shared-ride paratransit service. You can view the Port Authority video here.

Visit this link for more information and to register for the event. The program will be hosted on Zoom. Live captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided.  

If you would like the Consortium to assist with your registration, or to request accommodations, please contact us at or 412.204.7199.  We hope you will join us!

Consortium Welcomes New Preservation and Media Scholar

Image of Heather GlasbyThe Consortium is pleased to welcome Heather Glasby in the role of Preservation and Media Scholar. In her new role, Heather will support the Consortium’s efforts to identify, preserve and share the region’s disability history.

Heather has worked in libraries and archives in various roles since 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College in 2002 and master’s of Library and Information Science from University of Pittsburgh School of Library and Information Sciences in 2012. Her professional career includes providing archival reference and social media outreach with the National Archives Records Administration at Philadelphia, as well as serving as digital archivist for the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  A seasoned self-advocate for mobility-related access, when she is not working, she can be found engaging with a very active school-aged child.

A Pennsylvania native, Heather also lived in Gävle, Sweden, where she studied the concept of allemansrätt, the right of free personal access to uncultivated land and natural resources. Her experience there strongly influenced her approach to the public availability of historical records. "The need for equal accessibility of cultural heritage in all communities, but most especially those that have been historically underrepresented, mis-represented, or absent from the official historic record, remains a personal professional goal,” she said. “I'm excited to join the team to help increase public awareness of the many vibrant and diverse communities that have historically been referred to under the umbrella term of disability."

Remembering Thomas Gilhool

Photo of Thomas Gilhool  (photo source:  University of California, Berkeley)
Thomas Gilhool (1938-2020)
(Photo source: University of California, Berkeley)

The Consortium remembers the life and work of noted disability rights lawyer Thomas K. Gilhool, born in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and who passed away August 22, 2020, in Boston.

Mr. Gilhool’s career focused on the rights of the disenfranchised, including the disabled community and communities of color.  As lead council in both Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1971) and Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital (1974), his work advanced the effort to de-institutionalize and integrate students with intellectual disabilities, under the same “separate is not equal” premise that began the racial integration of public schools in the 1960s.

His advocacy remains a lasting legacy for countless children and adults with disabilities across Pennsylvania and the nation. In 2013, the “From Wrongs to Rights” event sponsored by United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Heinz History Center honored Mr. Gilhool and other advocates whose fight for change established the right of people with disabilities to live in the community and receive appropriate services. You can read a full obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.

Lawsuit Brings New Voting Platform for Visually Impaired Pennsylvanians

The Pennsylvania Department of State will implement the cloud-based OmniBallot tool to allow blind and visually-impaired Pennsylvanians to vote remotely.

Hosted on a secure Amazon Web Services platform, OmniBallot is already in use in 15 states and has been used in nearly 1,000 elections over the past decade, according to Democracy Live.
The new voting platform comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee for the Blind. For a summary of the current status of the platform roll-out, we recommend the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article here, with comments by Pennsylvania Department of State Secretary Kathy Boockvar and National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania President Lynn Heitz.

For details about accessible voting in your area, contact your county board of elections.

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

Your contribution in any amount helps to make our work possible!

Follow on Facebook Follow on Facebook
Did someone forward you this newsletter? Click the subscribe button below to sign up. 
Copyright © 2020 Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp