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Disability conference received large turnout

Julia Snyder

Associate News Editor

Millersville University’s Honors College and the Pennsylvania History Coalition hosted the second disability history conference on Monday, March 28. The conference featured keynote speaker Eric Rosenthal, the founder and executive director of Disability Rights International, as well as the premier of WITF’s documentary “The Long Journey Home.”

According to Dennis Downey, a professor of history at Millersville University and the director of the University Honors College, the overall goal of the conference is “promoting a broader understanding of the history of disability rights and the central role Pennsylvania played in that sometimes neglected freedom struggle for rights, dignity, and opportunity.” This is also the goal of the Statewide Coalition, which Millersville University has been a charter member of since the Coalition was created at a meeting on the university’s campus.

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Those in attendance were able to observe the documentary and all of the presentations. There were also opportunities for other organizations to share information, and discuss the events at the conference. The PA Inclusive Higher Education Consortium, the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University and Our P.A.T.H. (Personal Achievement Through Helping) were just a few of organizations that had tables at the event. There also was a collection of informative banners from the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance that described Pennsylvania’s involvement in the Disability Civil Rights movement.

Guy Caruso, the Western Coordinator for the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University said that the lack of general understanding about disabilities is an issue.

“I think people are starting to understand the horrible things that happened in the past, and we don’t want to repeat it,” said Caruso. “It’s a living history.”

This is the second year that Millersville has hosted the disability history conference. In the previous year, only about 120 people attended the conference. This year, 240 people were registered to attend the event, and they were joined by an unmeasured number of MU students and faculty members. Nearly a dozen University Honors College students were involved in the planning and logistics of the event as well, according to Downey.