Shallish ’05 Writes on Disability Rights – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Shallish ’05 Writes on Disability Rights

Lauren Shallish ’05, former chief of staff to President Mark D. Gearan, was recently a guest author for an article on disability rights that appeared in the Finger Lakes Times on Nov. 10. Shallish wrote on the occasion of Syracuse University’s Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies’ 40th anniversary celebration this weekend.

“Developments in the Disability Rights Movement have remained relatively obscure compared to the racial desegregation, women’s liberation movements and civil rights protests of the 1960s and 1970s,” Shallish said and added. “That might be true for other places but not for Syracuse.”

She highlighted the Center’s most notable accomplishments and applauded its work:
“All who are connected with the Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies, Syracuse University and the Syracuse community are proof that a commitment to disability can serve as the leverage point by which we design inclusive – not simply diverse – institutional practices that advance the full participation of all our members. In the 21st century, let us continue to be strengthened by plurality, full-inclusion and the creation of opportunities to be led by those who have historically been left behind.”

Shallish is currently at Syracuse University as a doctoral student in Disability Studies and Cultural Foundations of Education and a graduate assistant to the Dean of the School of Education. She also is as a research assistant for the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia University.

At William Smith, Shallish majored in political science and English, and participated in the Herald, Geneva Heroes, Alternative Spring Break program, Community Lunch Program, and was in the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science honor society. She also was member of Hai Timiai Society, Laurel Society, awarded the Chester Hampton Prize, a recipient of the Judith Haslam Cross ’52 Award and the President’s Public Service Award. She was a Helen Heath Scholar.

The full article follows.


Finger Lakes Times
Supporting rights of the disabled

Lauren Shallish • Guest Appearance • November 10, 2011

In the 1960s Civil Rights Era, two men made history by winning their appeals to enroll in institutions of higher education. James Meredith began a movement to secure educational opportunity for African Americans at the University of Mississippi, and Ed Roberts advanced the inclusion of people with disabilities in post-secondary life at the University of California, Berkeley.

Developments in the Disability Rights Movement have remained relatively obscure compared to the racial desegregation, women’s liberation movements and civil rights protests of the 1960s and 1970s.

That might be true for other places but not for Syracuse.

This weekend, Syracuse University’s Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies will mark its 40th anniversary with a two-day summit celebrating decades of groundbreaking research, advocacy and activism on behalf of and by people with disabilities. This work has anchored Syracuse as a nationally recognized community dedicated to disability rights.

Burton Blatt founded the center in 1971 in response to widespread abuse of and discrimination against people with disabilities. Forty years later the center and its allies continue to create inclusive opportunities in schooling, employment, athletics, social endeavors and political arenas all the while challenging biases that have perpetuated the inadequacies of a designated disability category.

The record of the center’s accomplishments is as diverse as the populations and communities it serves. Some of the most notable mentions include:
• 1972: Syracuse University faculty and students created inclusive preschool and school programs that served students with multiple disabilities.
• 1973: SU faculty in education and law organized a lawsuit leading to the initiation of deaf education in Syracuse.
• 1975: The center helped establish Syracuse Disabled in Action, the first disability advocacy group in central New York led by people with disabilities.
• 1987: Faculty produced the first national film on school inclusion, which aired on PBS.
• 1991: SU sponsored the first national conference on gender and disability and became the first research university to create an inclusive teacher-training program.
• 1995: SU founded the first Disability Studies program in the nation.
• 1998: After decades of advocacy by the center and community groups, New York state closed the Syracuse Developmental Center.
• 2003: New York State approved SU’s joint degree program in Law and Education in Disability Studies, also the first program of its kind.

Today the Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies collaborates with the Taishoff Center on Inclusive High Education, Schools of Promise, the Institute on Communication and Inclusion and the SU Parent Advocacy Center to create educational opportunities in public and higher education reflective of the highest ideals of a fully participatory society. The Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee, a long-standing graduate student movement, challenges the university and local community to move beyond legal requirements and mandates toward a relentless pursuit of full-inclusion. The Disability Rights Clinic at the SU Law School provides legal representation to individuals with disabilities and groups representing the disability community. Most recently, the founding of the first Disability Cultural Center acknowledges and positions disability culture within the life of post-secondary educational pursuits.

In all cases, the center’s work begins by situating the disabled or marginalized perspective as a valued one – a stance informed by the enduring words of Ed Roberts: “If we have learned one thing from the civil rights movement, it’s that when others speak for you, you lose.”

This week the National Council on Disability released a State of the Union Address, which identified people with disabilities as having “lower rates of employment, lower annual earnings, lower educational attainment and achievement and lacking adequate access to housing, transportation, technology and healthcare.” The work for disability rights is never finished but the celebration of the center gives us all an occasion to rededicate ourselves to the work ahead.

All who are connected with the Center for Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies, Syracuse University and the Syracuse community are proof that a commitment to disability can serve as the leverage point by which we design inclusive – not simply diverse – institutional practices that advance the full participation of all our members. In the 21st century, let us continue to be strengthened by plurality, full-inclusion and the creation of opportunities to be led by those who have historically been left behind.

Lauren Shallish, a 2005 graduate of William Smith College, is a doctoral student in Disability Studies and Cultural Foundations of Education and a graduate assistant to the Dean of the School of Education at Syracuse University. She also is as a research assistant for the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia University.