Voices of Change Videos
The Story of Paul Dick, Accessible Transportation Advocate
At just 14 years-old, Blair County native Paul Dick (1940 – 2010) was diagnosed with polio. He began to experience paralysis and use a wheelchair. He started treatments at Warm Springs, a polio treatment facility founded by President Franklin Roosevelt. As a teen who was receiving treatments and care away from home, then a professional who was faced with unreliable transportation to work, Paul saw firsthand that transportation was a major barrier for people with disabilities.
Paul, an ardent changemaker, was determined to eliminate this barrier. He helped create Allegheny County’s ACCESS Transportation System, one of the largest coordinated systems that stands as a model nationwide. His remarkable 55-year advocacy career focused on ensuring sustainable, accessible public transportation that operated as a collaboration between government and the citizens who use it.
The Life of Joe Benedum Trees (1931-2011)
Joe Benedum Trees, born in Pittsburgh in 1931, was diagnosed with intellectual disability and autism. His childhood took place in a day and age when very few disability services were available. Joe’s parents – Edith Lahm and Joseph Clifton Trees – had the financial means to provide their son’s support needs throughout his lifetime. After their passing, Joe lived with caregivers at Treesdale Manor, until his death in 2011 at the age of 79.
This interview tells the story of Joe’s life through the eyes of three dedicated caregivers at Treesdale Manor, the family’s estate in the North Hills of Allegheny County — Jesse Meckler, custodian; Dick O’Rourke, superintendent; and Barbara Soltis, nurse. Today, the trust fund set up for Joe’s life-long care provides financial support to numerous Western Pennsylvania organizations that serve people with disabilities.
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.
- Allegheny County. “Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA (Part 2)” YouTube video, 24 minutes 46 seconds. Posted July 2015.
- Boyle, Zak. “A Tribute to Linda Dickerson.” Vimeo video, 6 minutes 13 seconds. Posted 2016.
- Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. “Americans with Disabilities Act, Signing Ceremony, July 26, 1990.” 2015, 7:15 minutes. Includes comments from Dick Thornburgh, former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general. Posted 2020.
- City of Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Task Force on Disabilities. “Small Differences.” 1995, 20 minutes. Copyright 1995, City of Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Task Force on Disabilities. Used by permission. Film follows a group of Pittsburgh middle school-age youth as they explore what people with and without disabilities have in common. Filmed and narrated by the youth. Directed by Tony Buba. Posted 2020.
- WNYIL. “Pioneers in Disability Rights and Community Organizing – An Interview with Kathleen Kleinmann.” YouTube video, 53 minutes 52 seconds. Posted April 2015.
- Pittsburgh and Allegheny County ADA25, Fisa Foundation. 2015.
- Pittsburgh Disability March and ADA 27th Anniversary Rally, Access Mob Pittsburgh. 2017.
- From Wrongs to Rights.
- ADA Diaries of Pennsylvania, It’s Our Story, LLC.
- Green, Sierra. “Researching the History of Institutionalized People.” Recorded presentation, Heinz History Center, April 2021. Resource List available here.
- Green, Sierra. “When Grassroots Advocacy Sparks Grassroots Preservation: Working alongside Advocates, Archivists, and Curators to Document the Historic Experiences of People with Disabilities.” Slideshow, Society of American Archivists annual conference, August 2019. Notes available here.
- Stump, Tyler. “Working Collaboratively to Preserve and Share Pennsylvania’s Disability History Records: The Pennsylvania State Archives Perspective.” Slideshow, Society of American Archivists annual conference, August 2019. Notes available here.
- Sly, Margery. “Documenting Disability Rights History: Collaborating and Cooperating.” Slideshow, Society of American Archivists annual conference, August 2019. Notes available in presentation.
- Malley, Bridget. “Documentation Strategy and WPDHAC.” Slideshow, Society of American Archivists annual conference, August 2019. Notes available here.