Featured Project: Voices of Change
Interview with sisters of Danny Flavin, who lived for 56 years at Polk State Center
Danny Flavin (1946-2018) was one of seven children in a large Irish American family in a Pittsburgh suburb. He was born with a genetic condition that resulted in intellectual disabilities. His childhood took place in a time when few services were available for children with disabilities. Nevertheless, the Flavins raised their son at home amid a loving family.
When Danny was 16 years old, his parents became concerned about aggressive behaviors that had become a risk to his safety and the safety of others. No support services were available to help the family keep Danny at home. His parents made the difficult decision to move him to Polk State School and Hospital (now Polk Center), a large institution with about 3,000 residents at that time.
Danny’s transition to Polk Center was hard on the entire family, but was especially difficult for his father, Frank, who doted on his son and worked with him tirelessly. In this interview, Danny’s sisters, Virginia and Carol, speak about their strong connection with their brother, the care he received at Polk, and their support of state centers for people with significant disabilities. Polk Center, which remains open today with just over 100 residents, is moving toward closure.
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.