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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.

Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman to moderate panel at No Longer Locked Away: Amplifying the Voices, Visibility and Legacy of Individuals with Mental Illness

Be sure to register for the December 3 mental health conference, No Longer Locked Away: Amplifying the Voices, Visibility and Legacy of Individuals with Mental Illness.

The Consortium is pleased to bring you a discussion on the history and contemporary voices of people with lived experience in the world of mental illness, featuring keynote speaker Darby Penney. In addition, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman to moderate the discussion for this event. 
Head shot of Dr. Rachel Whitman. She has short brown hair, glasses, and a big smile.
Photograph of Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman.
Photo Source: 

Come and engage with Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman, a person with a mental illness who is an educator, advocate, writer, and public speaker on topics surrounding disability and social justice. She will host a conversation with a rich and diverse group of local self-advocates and leaders who have developed their own messaging and outreach on social media. To catch a preview of her work, you can read her blog, or follow her on Twitter. Her message: 

“Dismantling stigma requires diverse, resilient, and dedicated leaders who represent their community and whose action and activism efforts have made mental illness visible as a matter of social justice. Ta'lor Pinkston, Cori Frazer, and Jason McKoy are influential advocates and educators with lived experience who use social media to spur their mental health movements, champion their causes to combat sanism, and use their platforms to speak the language of hope.”

Diversity of culture, race, economics, language – and now the internet – all play a part in how we experience, treat, and perhaps most critically of all, talk about mental health within our communities. Panelists include: Ta’lor L. Pinkston of The Heart Advocate, Jason McKoy, graphic artist and owner of McKoy Creative, and Cori Frazer, Co-founder of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA).

Remembering Graham Mulholland (May 8, 1959 - October 18, 2020) 

Graham Mulholland holding a retirement plaque that celebrates 22 years of service.
Photograph of Graham Mulholland at his retirement.
Photo Source: Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council

The Consortium joins the Pennsylvania disability community in honoring the life and work of Graham Mulholland.

Born in Scotland, Mulholland served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council (PADDC) for 22 years, retiring in 2019. Mulholland was an ardent advocate for Pennsylvanians with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and pushed for advocacy agencies to work together toward a common goal.

Lisa Tesler, the current PADDC executive director, remembered Mulholland in an obituary published on the PADDC website as a “brilliant thinker and visionary [who] believed that people with disabilities do not need to change, rather, it is the broad community and society that needs to change to include all people who are marginalized.”

Mulholland’s full obituary can be found on Penn Live, and a tribute from his colleagues at PADDC can be found here.

Nancy Murray Awarded National Conference of Executives (NCE) “Executive Excellence Award”

Photo of Nancy Murray, who has blond-white hair, glasses, and a gentle smile.
Photograph of Nancy Murray
Photo Source: Achieva

The Consortium congratulates Nancy Murray, Achieva Senior Vice President, and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh, on receiving the National Conference of Executives (NCE) “Executive Excellence Award” during The Arc of the United States’ (virtual) national convention in October.

For more than 40 years, Murray has been a passionate advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The impact of her tireless efforts on behalf of those with I/DD and all people who experience disabilities have led to powerful wins.

Most recently, Murray led the charge to oppose legislation that would have permanently kept open two of Pennsylvania's remaining state centers, which house people with intellectual disabilities in a segregated manner. She also fought for the rights of people with disabilities to have the support of caregivers and loved ones in hospital settings during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Murray is a member of the executive committee of the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium. We thank her for her efforts on behalf of the disability community, and congratulate her on the much-deserved award. 

Oakland for All Wins Second Annual Meritzer Award

Oakland for All, a collaborative that brings together diverse stakeholders to eliminate physical and societal barriers for people with disabilities, has won the 2020 Richard Meritzer Award from ReelAbilities Pittsburgh.

Established in 2013, Oakland for All raises public awareness of accessibility in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, which is one of the most populous university, hospital and business districts in Pennsylvania. 

Oakland for All educates the public about accessibility through activities such as an annual “Ramp Crawl” and a website that serves as a one-stop contact for accessibility information. 

The Richard Meritzer award honors the legacy of the late ADA Coordinator for the City of Pittsburgh. The award recognizes outstanding leadership in advancing the "letter and spirit" of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Tune in to the Film Pittsburgh website from November 11-22 for the (virtual) 2020 Film Pittsburgh Fall Festival, which includes this year’s ReelAbilities film offerings. The presentation of the Richard Meritzer Award will precede the screening of The Feeling Through Experience.
ReelAbilities Pittsburgh promotes awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of individuals with disabilities. You can see the full lineup of ReelAbilities films here.

Congratulations to Oakland For All for a well-deserved award!

 Still image from film trailer, two men of different races sitting on a bench. A brick urban wall with graffiti behind them.
Still image from trailer for The Feeling Through Experience.
Photo Source:

Pennsylvania State Archives Hosts Community History Dialog, November 18

Join the State Archives on November 18, from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m., for a dialog about caring for artifacts and objects that are important to your community’s history. This session is free but participants must register to receive the Zoom access code. Visit the Community History Dialog webpage to register.

Past webinars in the Community History Dialog series have focused on topics such as oral histories, funding and resources, and under-represented communities.

For links to past events, visit the Community History Dialog playlist on YouTube.

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!

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