Professor Peter Blanck Profiled by the Providence Journal
Inside Story: A Champion for People with Disabilities Calls for Further Reform
(Providence Journal | May 10, 2019) ... Peter Blanck is University Professor at Syracuse University and chairman of the school’s Burton Blatt Institute, arguably the foremost center of its kind in America. It is named for the man who wrote the game-changing 1966 book “Christmas in Purgatory” and went on to become a pioneer in what the center calls “humanizing services” for people living with disabilities.
Blanck is a modest man, and on our show, he described the center and its expanding missions matter-of-factly, if with pride:
“We have grown phenomenally, with offices in New York City, and Washington, and Atlanta, and Kentucky, and Syracuse, of course, and working all over the world,” Blanck said.
“Essentially, we follow Burton Blatt’s main principle, which is written about in [“Christmas in Purgatory”] that each person has value. We look cross-disability. We look over the life course, and we focus on ways in which we can help support — through policy and research — the inclusion of people with disabilities in all civic, social and economic activities.
“Most people with disabilities are poor and live in poverty. Most people with disabilities today lack employment. So we have large-scale programs, for example, on financial literacy, on economic security, on helping people be more involved, self-determined in making their own decisions about their lives to the maximum extent possible.”
Blanck spoke of the movement that led to closing Ladd and many similar institutions where abuse and neglect were common, and to the landmark law that advanced rights.
“The fires of reform were lit,” he said. “In the late 1980s, people with disabilities for the first time came together — advocates, to try to understand if disability rights could be thought of in a similar way as African-American rights, as sexual-orientation rights, as rights for women.
“Thanks to the leadership of many senators and really bipartisan efforts, the Americans with Disabilities Act was born in 1990, which was the first major comprehensive law in the world, really, that looked at employment, public services, telecommunications, living in the community" ...