Hosted by Keystone Human Services International and presented in partnership with Keystone Human Services and the Council for Intellectual Disability and Inclusion International
"I became an advocate because I need to advocate for people who are still living in institutions," said Diana Zgherea, an advocate from Moldova. "The staff at the institution tried to convince me that I wouldn't survive in the community. But I wanted to change my life. It's important for me and others to share our stories at local, national, and global events to help others change their lives."
Diana was one of five panelists from around the world who shared their personal stories during the Plenary Session of the Keystone Human Services June Summit in Harrisburg, PA. This global conversation about inclusion was held on June 17-19, 2019 immediately after the UN's Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD).
People with disability led the way throughout the Summit, highlighting the CRPD and the global movement for inclusion and disability rights. The theme of the Summit was Speaking Up for Yourself and Others.
The Plenary Session on June 17 was open to the public and featured a global panel of advocates.
The Plenary opened with Daniel Castellanos, the first person with an intellectual disability to attend and graduate from Millersville University in Millersville Pennsylvania. He rejected other people's low expectations for him and aimed high instead. "I've had so many opportunities to develop skills and knowledge that I use in everyday life by having access to typical classes with a wide variety of students," said Daniel. "All people deserve the right to good, integrated education with an expectation that they will go to college and succeed in the world."
Diana Zgherea shared how her life is different now that she's living in the community instead of the institution. Her memories of living in the institution are about fear, violence, and bullying. "In the institution, I was afraid to say what I think," she said. "In the community, I'm the master of my own life."
Panelist Jaime Cruz of Peru echoed Diana's sentiments when he said, "Separating people is not good and doesn't help people to be part of the community. Rights are for everyone and no one should be left behind." Jaime discussed the benefits of his inclusive education and the importance of starting inclusion in schools. Participating in separate groups is not a true opportunity for inclusion.
But as Kylee Roberts, the Inclusion Project Manager for the Council for Intellectual Disability in Australia, said, "Just having a person with a disability in the room isn't inclusion. Inclusion means full participation."
Debbie Robinson, Executive Director of the US organization Speaking for Ourselves, shared the indescribable feeling she felt at seeing the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law. "We all want the same thing, and people with disabilities should have the same rights as everyone else," she said. "Just because I'm in a chair or anything else doesn't stop me from going out and living my life."
The June Summit workshops on June 17-19 gave people with disability the opportunity to network and learn about global human rights, inclusion and advocacy. These workshops included a pre-conference session presented by Inclusion International (external website) and two days of workshops by the Council for Intellectual Disability (external website).
Daniel Castellanos is the first person with an intellectual disability to attend and graduate from Millersville University, setting the stage for many others to follow in his footsteps through the Integrated Studies Program. He currently works full-time as a cook at the Pressroom Restaurant in Lancaster, PA.
Alanna Julian is an Inclusion Projects Officer at Council for Intellectual Disability (CID). She is the first permanent CID employee with an intellectual disability. She joined CID after graduating from the project My Choice Matters Become a Leader program.
Jaime Cruz Juscamaita is a member of Autogestores SPSD, a self-advocacy group supported by the Sociedad Peruana de Síndrome Down. The group advocates for inclusion in Peru using the CRPD and local laws, and has successfully campaigned on the right to vote and the right to access health and insurance.
Debra Robinson is the Executive Director of Speaking for Ourselves (SFO), a nationally recognized advocacy organization that teaches the public about the needs, wishes, and potential of people with disabilities. Before joining SFO, Debbie was active in the disability movement in New York. …
Diana believes people with disabilities should live in the community, not in institutions. She now works in a village kindergarten in Moldova, and she loves her job working with the children and other staff.
Visit the plenary session page and learn more about the panelists.