On March 13 the Visionary Voices website was officially launched! Over 200 people joined the Institute on Disabilities staff to celebrate the preservation of stories and archival documents that tell the story of Pennsylvania’s Intellectual Disability Movement. The event was held at the Independence Visitors Center’s Liberty Ballroom, located directly across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I can’t imagine a better place to celebrate the history of the Movement than in full view of these symbols of freedom and self determination.
While the evening was festive, speakers such as Philadelphia Councilman Dennis O’Brien reminded those in attendance that budget cuts threaten the supports and services that parents, advocates and self-advocates fought long and hard to achieve. Lack of funding has led to the institutionalization of fourteen Pennsylvanians with Intellectual Disabilities since January of 2011. Many of those in attendance expressed the very real concern that history might repeat itself.
The history of the Intellectual Disability community has remained one of Pennsylvania’s hidden histories. The preservation and sharing of that history is critical to our understanding of how events from the past have shaped our present day values.
The stories collected by Visionary Voices ask the disability community (and the community at large) to consider what can be achieved through collective action. We hope that you will allow the words of the Movement’s leaders reignite your own imagination and passion, as the fight for equality continues.