Browse Exhibits (9 total)
This exhibit includes video recorded oral history of and about Indiana advocates for the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as photographs and transcripts.
This exhibit presents a series of photographs of early assistive technology devices exhibited by Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana.
This online exhibit by the Indiana Disability History Project examines the end of an 85-year-old state institution, through video-recorded oral history and newly digitized audio interviews from the years just prior to Muscatatuck State Developmental Center's 2005 closure.
This exhibit includes video-recorded oral history, with photographs and transcripts about the first decades of the statewide self-advocacy group Self-Advocates of Indiana, including profiles of leaders Darcus Nims and Betty Williams.
Institutions were woven into the fabric of Indiana’s founding as a state. The original Constitution provided for “one or more farms to be an asylum for those persons, who by reason of age, infirmity, or other misfortunes, may have a claim upon the aid and beneficence of society.” The 1816 document pledged to offer these Hoosiers employment and “every reasonable comfort,” promises that would not be kept. It was almost two centuries later when the last of Indiana’s state-run institutions for people with disabilities closed its doors. Disability rights advocates, disturbing media exposes, and evolving social attitudes ended a troubled chapter of Indiana’s history.
Through video-recorded oral history interviews, this exhibit looks at community-based employment for people with intellectual and other significant disabilities in Indiana, from the beginnings of supported employment in the state during the 1980s, through the aftermath of its heyday in the 1990s.
Education and Hoosiers with Disabilities
James Martin Cousins, who has autism, was a student at Indianapolis’ Metropolitan High School in 2011. He described his role in creating his Individualized Education Program (IEP). “Before high school, my parents went to all the IEP meetings and just came back and told me ‘this happened.’ Now I'm actually leading most of the meetings.” Teachers and administrators attend. “They essentially say ‘Okay here's what a student needs to graduate from high school.’ My parents will usually have a couple things to chime in on, and then I make the final decision.” Mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the IEP establishes personal educational goals that, for students like James, may determine their path beyond school.
THE RIGHT TO WORK: EMPLOYMENT AND HOOSIERS WITH DISABILITIES
For people with disabilities in the United States, despite deinstitutionalization, significant legislative advances, and improved public attitudes, the employment rate has not really changed since World War II. Barriers such as discrimination in the workplace and lack of transportation have kept Americans with disabilities lagging behind their nondisabled counterparts. As an exception, some gains occurred with supported employment options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 1980s and 90s. Individuals with disabilities who have overcome the obstacles to employment make it evident: There are talents and skills missing from the workforce.
The history of employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities includes the unpaid work, or peonage associated with their confinement in institutions since the 19th century. In Indiana, farming operations and other unpaid labor were a way of life at New Castle State Hospital and Muscatatuck State School. Peonage was abolished there by 1969, not long before populations of institutions began to shrink and sheltered workshops appeared in community-based rehabilitation agencies. These facilities, paying subminimum wage to workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, were thought to be the best way to provide vocational preparation.
Hoosiers with Disabilities Living in Their Communities
Betty Williams grew up in Richmond, Indiana in the 1960s and 70s. She became a state and national leader in the self-advocacy movement before Barack Obama appointed her to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2014. Interviewed in 2016, she remarked that most people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) are just looking to receive “decent pay” and “to be able to do the jobs that are important to them in our communities.” They desire affordable housing “and to be able to buy your own house if that's what you want.” Although for many people with IDD these goals are still unmet, Williams’ comments illustrate how possibilities have opened and expectations have risen.