The Center on Human Policy: A 40 Year Retrospective Timeline

“Burton Blatt founded the Center on Human Policy 40 years ago. Together with other Syracuse University programs and initiatives in disability studies, inclusive education, communication access, disability law and policy, and accessible higher education, the Center on Human Policy continues to carry on his work.” --Steven J. Taylor, Centennial Professor in Disability Studies and Director, Center on Human Policy

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Center on Human Policy, this is a timeline of historic accomplishments of the Center on Human Policy as well as other several important milestones in disability history at Syracuse University.

1953-01-01 00:00:00

Syracuse University Special Education Building

"WHEN Syracuse University's new special education building was formally dedicated on February 27, 1953, it became one of only five such special installations in the United States. Construction was made possible by gifts from the James Foundation of New York City, the Association for the Aid of Crippled Children of New York City, and various smaller grants, with funds matched by the university… the building provide[d] immediate, on-the-spot services to handicapped children and adults in Central New York, help in preparation of instructors and teachers needed to work with physically and mentally handicapped children, and serve as an important research center.” Included in the building is the Gordon D. Hoople Hearing and Speech Center, which was dedicated on the same day as the building. SOURCE: Exceptional Children, May 1953, Vol. 19 Issue 8, p328.

1969-01-01 00:00:00

Burton Blatt appointed Director of Special Education

Burton Blatt is appointed director of the Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation. Blatt had published the heralded photographic exposé of institutions for people with mental retardation in the United States, Christmas in Purgatory, in 1966. Blatt also publishes the book Exodus from Pandemonium, exposing human abuse and denial of education to children in state institutions, this year.

1969-01-01 00:00:00

Ground-breaking book published by PCMR

The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation publishes Changing Patterns in Residential Services for the Mentally Retarded, edited by Robert Kugel and Wolf Wolfensberger. Changing Patterns includes a chapter by Blatt based on Christmas in Purgatory as well as chapters by Wolf Wolfensberger and Gunnar Dybwad, who would later become Professor of Special Education and Visiting Professor of Special Education at SU, respectively.

1971-01-01 00:00:00

Blatt testifies at PARC v. Pennsylvania

Burton Blatt gives crucial, ground breaking testimony in one of the first federal court cases on the right to education and the ability of all children to learn, PARC vs. Pennsylvania.

1971-07-01 00:00:00

The Center on Human Policy is Established

The Center on Human Policy is founded in 1971 by Burton Blatt in response to widespread abuse of and discrimination against people with disabilities in society.

1972-01-01 00:00:00

SU's Tradition of Qualitative Research in Special Education

The Center on Human Policy and the Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation publish a booklet and monograph on participant observation in institutions and other organizations. These are the first of many texts and articles on qualitative research methods in the area of disability published by SU faculty and students. In a 2001 Exceptional Children article, the author writes, “[T]he central actors in qualitative research in special education have undoubtedly been scholars at Syracuse University, who for decades have advocated for and practiced qualitative methods to reconstruct the meaning of the lives of children, youth, and adults with disabilities. . .The influence of this group, therefore, has spanned both the field of special education as a discipline as well as the general field of methodology in qualitative research" --Maureen C. Pugach, 2001, The Stories We Choose to Tell: Fulfilling the Promise of Qualitative Research for Special Education, Exceptional Children, 67(4), 439-453.

1972-01-01 00:00:00

NYSARC v. Rockefeller and "The Willowbrook Wars"

SU professors participate in formulating the famous NYSARC vs. Rockefeller case that led to a court decree mandating reforms and deinstitutionalization at the Willowbrook State School, the largest state institution housing people with mental retardation in the nation. Noted historian David Rothman writes that the Center on Human Policy’s ranks included “the most radical thinkers in the field” at the time in the book, The Willowbrook Wars: A Decade of Struggle for Social Justice.

1972-01-01 00:00:00

Support for Parents of Children with Disabilities

The Center on Human Policy sponsors a “Parent Power” conference and helps to organize the Parents’ Information Group for Exceptional Children. Both of these are cross-disability initiatives at a time when parents of children and adults with different disabilities had their own organizations and conferences and often competed with each other for scarce resources. The Parents’ Information Group eventually becomes Exceptional Family Resources, a private voluntary agency that continues to provide support services to families of people with disabilities.

1972-01-01 00:00:00

First Group Homes

The Center on Human Policy opens the first group homes for people with mental retardation in Onondaga County. The operation of these homes is soon turned over to private, voluntary agencies.

1973-01-01 00:00:00

Groundbreaking Lawsuit on Deaf Education

Center staff and SU faculty in education and law organize a lawsuit leading to the initiation of deaf education in Syracuse.

1973-01-01 00:00:00

Creation of inclusive schools in Syracuse

SU faculty and students are innovators in creating inclusive preschool and school programs serving students with significant disabilities (e.g. autism, Down syndrome) and students without disabilities.

1974-01-01 00:00:00

Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse is Established

The Center on Human Policy helps to establish Syracuse Disabled in Action, the first disability advocacy group in Central New York led by people with disabilities.

1979-01-01 00:00:00

The Community Imperative is issued

The Center on Human Policy issues The Community Imperative: A Refutation of All Arguments in Favor of Institutionalizing Anybody Because of Mental Retardation, a declaration supporting the right of all people with mental retardation and other disabilities to community living. The declaration is supported by professional, parent, and disability leaders across the country.

1981-01-01 00:00:00

Self-Advocacy Project

With funding from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Center on Human Policy hires two self-advocates who are former residents of state developmental centers and becomes the first university institute nationally to include people with intellectual disabilities among its professional staff.

1985-01-01 00:00:00

Progressive study of inclusive education published in "Achieving the Complete School"

SU faculty publish the book, Achieving the Complete School, an ethnographic study of school inclusion.

1985-01-01 00:00:00

Center Receives NIDRR Funding

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U. S. Department of Education awards the first of a series of large, multi-year grants to operate a national center on research and training to advance the full inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in society.

1987-01-01 00:00:00

First National Film on Inclusion

Faculty produce the first national film on school inclusion aired on PBS. The film, Regular Lives, won numerous awards, including a Blue Ribbon from the American Film Institute.

1988-01-01 00:00:00

Leadership Institute for Community Integration

At the request of Madeleine Will, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, SU faculty and staff convene a Leadership Institute on Community Integration for People with Developmental Disabilities in Washington, D.C. to make recommendations to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in community settings, schools, and work places. A summary of the proceedings of the institute are published in From Being in the Community to Being Part of the Community.

1990-01-01 00:00:00

Facilitated Communication introduced to the US

Professor Doug Biklen publishes a ground-breaking article on facilitated communication, a method by which non-speaking children and adults with autism can learn to communicate. This work is subsequently featured on national television programs, including PrimeTime Live and Sixty Minutes.

1991-01-01 00:00:00

Gender and Disability Conference

SU sponsors the first national conference on gender and disability. This is the first of many conferences organized by students associated with the Center on Human Policy.

1991-01-01 00:00:00

Inclusive Teacher Education Program

SU becomes the first research university to create an inclusive teacher training program.

1992-01-01 00:00:00

Facilitated Communication Institute is Launched

School of Education faculty founds the Facilitated Communication Institute to study and promote communication by people with autism and other developmental disabilities. In 2010 the Institute is renamed the Institute on Communication and Inclusion (ICI).

1995-01-01 00:00:00

First national Disability Studies program

SU establishes a graduate Disability Studies academic program, the first in the nation.

1998-01-01 00:00:00

The Closure of the Syracuse Developmental Center

After decades of advocacy by SU faculty, staff, and students, New York State closes Syracuse Developmental Center, which was founded in 1854 and was the second institution for people with developmental disabilities in North America. All developmental center residents are moved into the community as opposed to being transferred to other state institutions.

1998-01-01 00:00:00

"A Laboratory for Progressive Policies and Practices..."

An editorial in the Syracuse Herald American states: “For decades, Syracuse University has been a source of enlightenment and energy in forging new paths to integrate people with disabilities into the mainstream. Its Center on Human Policy is a laboratory for progressive policies and practices that continues to have a national and international impact.”

2000-01-01 00:00:00

SU Professors Deemed as Signicant Contributors to the 20th Century

The National Historical Trust, a consortium of seven national organizations, including the American Association on Mental Retardation, the Arc of the United States, and the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, includes Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger along with former Visiting Professor Gunnar Dybwad among its list of 35 honorees for “Significant Contributions of the 20th Century.”

2000-01-01 00:00:00

The Community Imperative Revisited and subsequently reissued

The Center on Human Policy reissues The Community Imperative declaration in response to a backlash against deinstitutionalization in California and other states. In contrast to 1979, when the declaration was supported by individual leaders and advocates, The Community Imperative receives endorsements from a broad range of national, state, and local organizations, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc of the United States, the Autism National Committee, Service Employees International Union, AFL/CIO, and TASH.

2001-01-01 00:00:00

CAS in Disability Studies Approved by NYS

New York State approves SU’s graduate Certificate of Advanced Study in Disability Studies, providing formal recognition for advanced study in this area of inquiry.

2001-01-01 00:00:00

Student Disability Activist and Advocacy Group Formed

SU students form the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee to advocate for changes in SU’s disability policies and procedures and to sponsor disability educational and cultural events.

2003-01-01 00:00:00

First Ever Joint Degree in Law and Disability Studies

New York State approves SU’s joint degree program in Law (J. D.) and Education (M. S.) in Disability Studies, the first such program in the nation.

2004-01-01 00:00:00

Expanding the Work of the Center on Human Policy

The School of Education, the College of Law, and the College of Human Ecology create the center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies as an extension of the work of the Center on Human Policy.

2004-01-01 00:00:00

Autism a World

CNN broadcasts the documentary Autism is a World, which is co-produced by SU Professor Douglas Biklen. The film is subsequently nominated for an Academy Award.

2006-01-01 00:00:00

A Statement of Common Principles on Life Sustaining Care Issued

The Center on Human Policy issues A Statement of Common Principles on Life Sustaining Care and Treatment of People with Disabilities to oppose the involuntary withholding of nutrition, hydration, and routine medical care to children and adults with disabilities. This statement receives endorsements from national, state, and local disability organizations, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, The Arc of the United States, the National Council on Independent Living, and TASH.

2006-01-01 00:00:00

Steven Taylor named Senior scholar in disability studies

Steven J. Taylor is named the recipient of the first annual Senior Scholar Award of the Society for Disability Studies.

2009-01-01 00:00:00

Taishoff Center Established

The School of Education establishes the Taishoff Center on Inclusive Higher Education to promote the participation of students with intellectual and other disabilities in postsecondary education.

2009-01-01 00:00:00

Critical Perspectives on Disability Book Series Launched

SU Press establishes the “Critical Perspectives on Disability” book series. The first volume in this series is Acts of Conscience: Acts of Conscience World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors by Steven Taylor.

2009-01-01 00:00:00

Historical Archives of Dr. Wolf Wolfesnberger

The Annie E. Casey Foundation awards a grant to organize Wolf Wolfensberger’s archives and collection of rare books for eventual inclusion in SU’s library’s Special Collections.

2010-01-01 00:00:00

Undergraduate Minor in Disability Studies Approved

The SU Senate approves the School of Education’s undergraduate Minor in Disability Studies.

2011-01-01 00:00:00

SU Disability Cultural Center Established

The groundbreaking SU Disability Cultural Center is the only one of its kind across the nation that is operated by permanent staff members. The Disability Cultural Center will function as an umbrella organization under which social, cultural and educational programming related to disability and disability culture will take place.

The Center on Human Policy: A 40 Year Retrospective Timeline

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