Featured Project: Voices of Change
Interview with Ceil Belasco and Liz Healey, advocates for inclusive education in the Pittsburgh Public Schools
From the 1990s through 2010s, Ceil Belasco and Liz Healey were at the forefront of the movement for inclusive education for students with disabilities in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. They worked to ensure that students with disabilities had the opportunity to be educated alongside their peers in regular classrooms, and that teachers received the support they needed to engage diverse learners.
Belasco, as an educator, and Healey, as a school board member, worked with others to create a system-wide commitment to educating students with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers. In addition to their professional roles, Belasco and Healey were parents of children with disabilities who were among the first generation of students to be educated in inclusive classrooms.
In their respective roles in the Pittsburgh school district, they networked, organized, and advocated to bring about a district-wide, transformational commitment to inclusive education practice, advance the rights of students with disabilities, and open minds about the benefits of inclusive education for all students. They worked closely with district officials to develop the vision and best practices for inclusive education, and to earn a reputation as one of the districts in the nation most engaged in inclusive education.
Randy Gorske of Crawford County and M.J. Bartelmay of Mercer County, Western PA disability rights leaders
Randy Gorske of Crawford County and M.J. Bartelmay of Mercer County are Western Pennsylvania disability right leaders who opened doors for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Randy Gorske was executive director of The Arc of Crawford County in northeastern Pennsylvania for 26 years beginning in 1988. He helped many residents of Polk State Center make the move to community living and served on the Human Rights Committee at Polk for many years.
M.J. Bartelmay (1957-2020) became active with The Arc of Mercer County in 1992 when his son, also named M.J., began receiving early intervention services. His advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities included leadership at the local, state and national level.
In this interview, the longtime colleagues talk about their shared commitment to ensuring respect, self-determination and quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the unique paths that led to their life work.
Preserve and Share
The Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium preserves and shares the historic struggle of Western Pennsylvanians with disabilities to attain human and civil rights.
We educate the public about disability history in order to improve community access, participation and equal opportunity, and to ensure disability rights through existing and new policies and laws.
We join stakeholders across Pennsylvania to advocate on policies that ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities.
Western Pennsylvania has played a significant role in the history of disability rights. From Arc Allegheny’s efforts in the 1970s to expose abusive conditions in state institutions to Allegheny County’s development of the first paratransit system in the nation in the 1980s, Western Pennsylvania has taken a stand.