Featured Project: Voices of Change
Kate Bayer, special education teacher, Polk State Center, early 1970s
As a graduate student in special education at Pennsylvania’s Clarion University in the early 1970s, Kate Bayer spent nine months teaching school-age children at Polk State Center, an institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Venango County.
Her assignment to Polk Center followed the 1972 Pennsylvania judicial decree which guaranteed–for the first time–the “Right to Education” for children with disabilities.
At Polk, Kate witnessed treatment she considered inhumane. Committed to making sure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were treated with dignity and respect, Kate went on to work in a community-based disability services agency for 28 years. She began as a direct care professional and retired as Director of Development and Marketing.
Kate’s account of teaching at Polk State Center, her observations about the treatment of residents, and her life-long commitment to people with disabilities is part of Western Pennsylvania history. Kate, a long-time resident of the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, passed away in March 2021 at the age of 70.
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.
- Visit our historic timeline
- Learn more about the contribution of Western Pennsylvanians as documented in projects conducted by Consortium partners:
- Voices of Our Region Oral History Project
- Visionary Voices (interviews with key advocates)
- From Wrongs to Rights (documentary)
- i go home (documentary)
- User Guide for Preserving and Sharing the History of Pennsylvanians with Intellectual and Developmental Disability (PDF)
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- Visit our Facebook page or YouTube channel