Last year's June Summit was hosted by Keystone Human Services International and presented in partnership with Keystone Human Services and the Council for Intellectual Disability and Inclusion International.
This global conversation about inclusion during the June Summit Plenary Session in Harrisburg, PA immediately followed the UN's Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Keystone Human Services convened a panel of advocates from the United States, Australia, Moldova, and Peru who built on the UN's discussions around the CRPD, human rights, and advocacy.
"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.
Daniel recognizes the importance of inclusive education. In 2017, he was invited to speak to representatives in Washington, DC on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act regarding the importance of higher education for all people.
He was also interviewed by WITF and is featured in their 2018 documentary Going Home.
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.
Alanna co-facilitates inclusive practice training workshops where she teaches others how to include people with intellectual disability.
She proudly represents CID at many different conferences and events, including the upcoming United Nations Conference of States Parties to the CRPD in New York. Currently, she sits on the CRPD Shadow Report Working Group, helping to review how Australia is implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In her recent work, Alanna spoke at the VALiD Having a Say Conference in Geelong, Australia about the human rights and facilitated a public speaking workshop for people of all abilities.
Jaime Cruz Juscamaita
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.
Members of Autogestores SPSD work with the Sociedad Peruana de Síndrome Down to lead training sessions on disability awareness, the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, and inclusive education. The group also acts as spokespeople within the community.
In addition to his work with Autogestores SPSD, Jaime is an Inclusion International Empower Us fellow. In this role, he connects with other advocates in the region to establish a Latin American self-advocacy network.
Jaime feels being an Empower Us fellow is an opportunity for him to be a role model and teach people with intellectual disability about their rights, including inclusion in education, employment, and living independently.
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. She attended the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. In 1995, she was appointed to the National Council of Disabilities by President Clinton and has served on the American Association of People with Disabilities and Self Advocates Become Empowered (SABE). Debbie works tirelessly to advocate for others and to help others advocate for themselves.
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.
From 2002 to 2015, Diana lived in an institution, where she was denied most of her rights, had no friends, and was highly discriminated against.
Within two years of leaving the institution with support from Keystone Moldova, Diana joined a self-advocacy group, where she learned everything she could about the rights of people with disabilities.
Diana has participated in several events where she shared her story and advocated for the social inclusion of all people.
Bill Krebs, Co-Master of Ceremony
Advocacy Coordinator for Keystone Human Services
Bill Krebs is Keystone Human Services' Advocacy Coordinator. After being diagnosed late in school with a developmental disability, Bill fought to be awarded a high school diploma like his peers. He's now an active advocate for people with disabilities across Pennsylvania and beyond. He is on the Independent Monitoring for Quality Statewide Management Committee for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
He is the proud recipient of a Roland Johnson Award from Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered for his work in the self-advocacy movement, an Advocacy Award from St. John's Community Services, and a Grants for Autism Advocacy and Support Award from the Philadelphia Autism Project. He contributes to "Riot!," a self-advocacy newsletter. Bill also appeared in the 2016 I Go Home documentary, about how institutionalization affected the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in the United States in the 1960s.
Genevieve Fitzgibbon, Co-Master of Ceremony
Deputy Director, Keystone Human Services International
Genevieve Fitzgibbon is the Deputy Director for Keystone Human Services International. Her whole career has focused on full community inclusion for children and adults with disability, deinstitutionalization, and equal rights for all people. She has worked for over 20 years in the US and other countries to develop innovative supports for children and adults with disabilities. In India, she has helped to establish Keystone Institute India, which provides education on disability, community, and inclusion. She also provides leadership for Keystone's work in Moldova. Genevieve has provided guidance for Keystone's work as a consultant on inclusion in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Russia.