After a group home resident loses her fun-loving housemate, the community she’s part of work through their shared grief. Plus, what prompted the creation of group homes? We’ve got some history. Jennifer Szweda Jordan hosts this episode, which includes interviews by podcaster Erin Gannon and producer Liz Reid. We’ll also premiere bonus episodes including an interview with a woman who leads bereavement support groups for people with intellectual disabilities. 

A Valid Podcast is produced by All-Abilities Media at the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. Episodes are published via Unabridged Press podcast channels on Apple Podcasts, Anchor.fm, Spotify, Google Podcasts and others. Images and written material appear on PublicSource.

Related: Episode 3 of A Valid Podcast

Liz Reid, of Jeweltone Productions interviewed guests, and engineered and mixed audio. PublicSource Managing Editor Halle Stockton edited scripts. Cover art was made by Mick Fisher, with assistance from Creative Citizen Studios. This episode includes original music and vocals by George Casselberry.

This transcript contains brief references to abuse and even murder of people with disabilities, which could trigger some people. A resource for those who are triggered: Find A Helpline.

GUESTS: 

Karen Jacobsen

Pennie Wilson 

Diane Wojdowski

Lauren Zak

(All from Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh)

SCRIPT

MUSIC: AVP Theme: Soft, sky, soft, urban, chilling

JORDAN: Welcome to A Valid Podcast. I’m Jennifer Szweda Jordan. I’d like you to meet Diane and Debbie. For more than 20 years they did just about everything together. They sat at the same big wooden table for dinner, went out dancing, and vacationed together. They lived in what had been a three-story red brick old priest’s rectory. It was built right around 1900 in urban Pittsburgh. The building had been converted to a group home with the Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh. Both Diane and Debbie spent most of their adult lives there. Debbie was a jokester, and Diane was her foil. She’d respond to Debbie’s clowning with a few words: a “knock it off” or a raspberry.   

DIANE: Sound: PFFFT 

JORDAN: 

At one of the most challenging times in our world’s recent history, Debbie died. She was 50. Though her death was unrelated to COVID, the pandemic made it difficult as it was for so many others to mourn together as before. Emmaus Community sought ways to support Diane and the staff who were closest to her. One of the staff people had a friend make a teddy bear from Deb’s pajamas for Diane. And they celebrated the life of Debbie with laughter at the joy she brought the world.

PENNIE WILSON: Like in the car, sometimes you look in the back and she’s just 

LAUREN ZAK: Dancing.

WILSON: Doing her little Deb dance, which this is it — and I know they can’t see me, but it’s that shoulder shake. 

LIZ REID: There’s a lot of shoulder. 

JORDAN:  Diane and Debbie were the first people who I really got to know when I started working at Emmaus Community 17 years ago. I’ve been a direct support professional. So lucky for me, I got to do many of the things they’ve done — the vacations, the dances, and enjoying some really great meals. And, as in the case of Debbie, I’ve grieved losses in our community too. 

Today, we consider how strong community bonds, shared activities and rituals can help people with intellectual disabilities — and really all of us — to make the most of life, and to weather storms together. 

Lauren Zak (right) helps Diane change her bed sheets. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)

The concept of community is at the core of what we’re looking at in this third season of A Valid Podcast. We’ve been using a more academic term — social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. That is, where people with disabilities such as Down syndrome have varied job opportunities, get invited to bake casseroles for Thanksgiving dinner like everyone else in families, and, when loved ones are at the end of life, to have a role in memorializing them. In previous shows we’ve considered how society does and doesn’t support healthy inclusion when it comes to dating, marriage, and living alone.

Today we’ll visit Emmaus Community, and learn about the evolution of group homes. For the most part, they’ve been hidden in plain sight. 

And I need to share a warning. There are in this episode some references to abuse of people with disabilities and murder which could trigger some people. Now this break. 

MUSIC: Calm sunrise acoustic guitar

WAYNE GAINES: A Valid Podcast Is brought to you by All-Abilities Media. The project is a collaboration between Unabridged Press and the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. Support from Pittsburgh philanthropies has allowed us to amplify voices and increase work opportunities. And there’s many more people we can reach together. If you’d like to help create more podcasts like this please go to allabilitiesmedia.org/donate

JORDAN: Let’s take a few moments to explore what spurred the creation of group homes. Until a half-century ago in America, doctors often recommended that children with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome be placed in institutions. These were sprawling medical campuses in remote locations. Many children would grow up, and live out their lives there, apart from the outside world. And our society allowed this warehousing of people, out of sight.

In the early 70s, news reporters exposed living conditions at institutions. Among the worst: New York’s Willowbrook School. Children there were injected with hepatitis for medical research. The school technically had a capacity of 4,000 people. But some 6,000 people lived there at one point. This situation appalled the public and politicians. Then more investigations and news reports revealed similar horror stories from institutions across America. That includes Pennsylvania where I’m speaking to you from now. Disability advocate Marsha Blanco had a role in deinstitutionalizing the state.  

BLANCO: We had known for some time that conditions at Western Center, which was our last remaining institution for people with intellectual disabilities here in southwestern Pennsylvania were not at all what they should be. And there were hundreds of people with intellectual disabilities living there.

The staff there had lost their sense of the humanness of the individuals who were living there. And some people have been living there for 30 and 40 years. I remember an incident that was quoted by the state policeman who was, was undercover. When someone dropped a slice of watermelon on the floor, the staff thought that it was fun to make him lie on that piece of watermelon and, with — with his body, tried to clean up the floor. People were struck by staff people. We had two individuals die in the dental chair while having their teeth cleaned. I could go on and on. But it makes me very emotional to even go back to that time. As a result of that report, a board that I have served on Disability Rights Pennsylvania, sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to close Western Center. The lawsuit went on in federal court. For years, it ended in a settlement. But during that period of time, my family was harassed. I had calls at night, anonymous calls saying that they knew where my children went to school. And it was a pretty scary time.

JORDAN: Marsha’s words are from an award-winning interview with Erin Gannon, host of our sister podcast Look Who’s Here!  

As the tide turned away from institutions, people with intellectual disabilities went on to live with their families, or in their own homes, or group homes like Emmaus. That’s where Erin lives. Emmaus’ executive director Karen Jacobsen speaks with a lot of passion about the work and the community. Here she is talking with Erin Gannon about her Emmaus journey, and how the pandemic amped up challenges that already existed in the disability service field.  

Erin Gannon (below), who lives at Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh, interviewed its director, Karen Jacobsen, as part of the “Look Who’s Here!” podcast Erin founded. (Screenshot)

GANNON: How did you get involved with Emmaus?

JACOBSEN: I was working with children with disabilities at the time. And a friend of mine gave me an article from a newspaper here in Pittsburgh and said, look, look what’s happening in Pittsburgh, there’s a new organization called Emmaus Community. And I think that you and your husband might be interested in working there. 

They only had one house and two residents at the time. So I started volunteering, and one thing led to another then I became a direct support professional in 1995. And I’ve been with Emmaus ever since.

GANNON: Can you tell me about someone who has been a big influence in your life and a role model? 

JACOBSEN: That’s a great question. I’m gonna say that Emmaus’ founder Lorraine Wagner had a profound influence on me. And she has been a role model from day one. And here’s why. You know, Lorraine, you know the story. Lorraine and Ken Wagner raised four children, right, and their youngest daughter has a developmental disability. What impressed me so much about Lorraine is that she loved her daughter so much that she wanted to really start something that would make the world a better place, but not just for her daughter. But for all people who needed a place like Emmaus. And so that — that was one thing that impressed me. But then what I learned from Lorraine is that nothing comes easy. And so there’s always a little bit of a fight to get, you know, people don’t like change, right? And so there’s a lot of work to be done in this field. People still don’t understand — like some people in the general public don’t understand about community living homes, that they’re just family style homes where you’re living an everyday life, like I live in everyday life and you go to work, and I go to work and you have housemates, and I have housemates. So, Lorraine taught me to never stop fighting to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. So I learned how to speak up and use my voice and my advocacy. I learned that from Lorraine. I learned to not be afraid to take on a hard challenge. You know, I learned by watching her build this organization from, you know, one house with one resident to when she retired, and I became the executive director in 2008. You know, the program had grown to many, many homes and many people and many services, because she never stopped fighting for the right thing. 

But there is still so so so much work to be done. So much work to be done, even in our state. And you know, there are over 13,000 people with developmental disabilities waiting for services. We have a lot of work to do still. So I will always be grateful to Lorraine for starting Emmaus and for teaching me all the things that she taught me. And I hope I — I hope I can carry on that tradition and teach the people coming behind me how to pick up the torch and how to pick up the, you know, pick up the fight, pick up the advocacy. There’s a lot of work to be done.

JACOBSEN: What changes were made at Emmaus because of COVID quarantine?

Our whole world changed. Because as you know, at Emmaus, we are all about participating in the life of the community. So we are out and about and on the go, right? We go to restaurants and movie theaters and shopping. 

And then the community got hit with this virus called COVID that nobody had ever heard of. And they told us to stay home for two weeks. And we were beside ourselves. We thought, “How are we going to stay home for two weeks?” And we really didn’t want anybody to get sick. So we said, “OK, we’re gonna do that, we’re going to be very careful and not go anywhere. And we’re going to stay inside. And we’re going to do everything that — that the Allegheny County Health Department tells us to do. We’re going to wash our hands frequently, we’re gonna wear masks and we’re gonna stay home. And we’re gonna keep distance.” And we’re–we couldn’t–we had to stop allowing visitors to our homes. And then we learned pretty quickly that two weeks was not going to be long enough.

We had to stop our home visits. People weren’t going home to visit their families because we didn’t want to bring the virus home to our loved ones or have them bring it to us. So visiting had to be suspended for a long, long time. We had to implement all kinds of new trainings so that everybody could understand the seriousness of COVID. And why we needed to do all these things. And then one of the best things that happened from it as we all had to learn new technology, right. So for example, this interview is being held via Zoom, as were many, many, many of our activities through the year at Emmaus. So we had dance parties via Zoom, we had prayer services via Zoom, we had arts and crafts, and that way, we were able to keep people from being too isolated.

GANNON: There’s something I want to add that I want to, not know, but to learn about you. 

JACOBSEN: OK

GANNON: I learned so much from you. You helped me get through my personal life that I’ve been going through a lot. So you’ve been the bestest friend I ever dreamed of having. And you’re always there when I needed you.  

JACOBSEN: Well, thank you, Erin, for saying that. 

 GANNON: I want to thank you from my heart.

JACOBSEN:  Well, you’re very welcome. It’s my privilege to be part of your life journey.

GANNON: Thank you for speaking with me. I’m talking with Kevin Jacobsen, the CEO of Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh. 

MUSIC: City urban hard life beat loop (Pond5.com)

JORDAN: And thanks to Erin Gannon for that interview. The waiting list Karen referred to consists of people with intellectual disabilities and autism waiting for Medicaid funding. Those dollars would  be used to support their housing and community participation. The national waiting list is 850-thousand people long. We’re back in a moment. 

WAYNE GAINES (Point Park Center for Media Innovation): At Point Park University in downtown Pittsburgh, we understand there’s no substitute for real world experience and career-building connections. Visit pointpark.edu/works to learn more about. Parks innovative co-op program. Career-ready. That’s the point. Point Park University.

JORDAN: COVID multiplied a severe shortage of staff serving people with intellectual disabilities. Karen at Emmaus and other group home CEOs have found themselves working again in the homes with residents, as direct support positions have gone unfilled.Scratch the surface of the communities needs like Emmaus said in a PublicSource article that even a one-two-billion dollar plan Pennsylvania is considering to lift worker wages doesn’t scratch the surface of the community’s needs.

Can the underfunded, understaffed model be sustained? How far have we come from the institutional era in terms of the social will to care for people with intellectual disabilities? Back to Willowbrook for a moment. In 2020, The New York Times reported that many of the 2,300 Willowbrook alumni still alive suffered from mistreatment, but now in group homes. The Times found that in 2019, there were nearly 100 reported allegations of physical abuse by group home workers, against their residents.

The world in general isn’t always kind to group home residents. Some people legally fight the establishment of even one group home in their neighborhoods. And in some cases, neighbors have been known to question staff about residents’ private medical information, and share complaints about their tax dollars supporting the homes’ residents. And yet, some group homes are totally embraced and residents are part of block parties. Others are just kind of ignored.

People with intellectual disabilities are arguably the most vulnerable group in our population. And there are cases when they’ve even been killed. This next break speaks to that. Again, this could trigger some listeners.

MUSIC: Dry Air, Podington Bear

JAMES SHIRLEY: I’m James Shirley. I’m working with the All-Abilities Media Project at the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. I want to express my thanks to The Heinz Endowments. Their Small Arts Initiative, awarded All-Abilities Media funding for a documentary I proposed. I want to tackle a dark subject: the fact that people with disabilities are sometimes killed by their parents and caregivers. The topic is personal to me. Two boys I knew who were autistic were drowned by their mother. Each year on March 1, advocates host Disability Day of Mourning events. They remember people around the world who died the year before. The documentary will help the commemoration last beyond one day. Thanks again to The Heinz Endowments. If you’d like to support the documentary, please visit allabilitiesmedia.org/donate Thank you.

JORDAN: In recent years, a new storm has been brewing for people with intellectual disabilities. As many people with Down syndrome are living longer, it’s become clear they’re at greater risk of developing dementia than the general population.  

DIANE SUNDERLIN: And that’s going to be a lot of people who need services and cared for and, and I don’t know, you know, how that’s going to happen right now, you know, because the funding is difficult already.

JORDAN: That’s Diane Sunderlin. She’s producing a documentary about dementia among people with Down syndrome. Her brother, a onetime Emmaus resident, died of dementia. 

SUNDERLIN: I mean, he was pure love. And that’s, that was the — my — you know, the exceptional opportunity that I had in life was to experience that joy.

JORDAN: You can hear Diane’s full conversation with disability advocate Alisa Grishman on a bonus episode of A Valid Podcast. Our bonus episodes invite you to learn from the perspectives of people who support those with intellectual disabilities like Diane. Whereas the stories in our numbered serial episodes like this one focus on the voices of people with intellectual and learning disabilities themselves. You’ll find the bonus episodes on the same podcast platform where you’re hearing A Valid Podcast now! A Valid Podcast is on Unabridged Press’ channels on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, and others.  

MUSIC: Two Lives theme

LAUREL MORALES: Growing up mixed race, Charmaine Fury says she never completely fit in. 

CHARMAINE FURY: I generally–I got to be black if I was around black people, you know. Someone might say, ‘You won’t understand because you’re not all the way black.’ I didn’t necessarily get to be Japanese around Japanese people. And despite having two white grandparents, I was never a white person. So that meant finding home was hard. It’s coming up in season four of 2 Lives. 

JORDAN: We’re about to walk into Emmaus Community to learn more about Diane and Debbie.

Liz Reid interviewed Diane, as well as interviewing two of her direct support providers: Pennie Wilson and Lauren Zak. Throughout the conversation, you’ll hear some breathing overlapping the speakers. 

That’s Diane kind of processing conversations by mouthing some words others are speaking. And sometimes you may hear her sighing because well, we’re pushing her dinnertime as Liz unpacks equipment. Diane geeks out about tech a little.

DIANE: What’s this?

REID: This is a cable. It’s called an XLR cable.

DIANE: Cable.

REID: Yeah, it’s what plugs in the microphone to the recorder

DIANE: Hmm. I’ve got a TV. 

REID: Oh cool, that’s a big TV, too. That’s bigger than mine. 

DIANE: Hey, you, Liz.

(DIANE AND REID: Laughter)

WILSON: Hi I’m Pennie.I work in finance and also am a direct support professional.

ZAK: Hi, I’m Lauren. So I currently am a direct support professional.

WILSON: It just makes me happy being able to see them accomplish things that they haven’t been able to do previously, or something that maybe makes them nervous, and they’re able to work it out. Being able to see that and help them reach that goal is really cool.

ZAK: I had just moved to Pennsylvania in January of 2020 started working here, worked with Di — Deb and Diane four days a week like that was my life. 

WILSON: I have worked in other agencies, and it’s very impersonal.

ZAK: You see the way that the other residents interact with each other.  So you know that it’s not one house and another house, but they’re all together even though they don’t all live together. 

REID: Can you say what are some of your favorite things about Emmaus Community?

DIANE: Tammy Lynn.

ZAK: That’s one of your staff. Yeah, you like Tammy? 

Emmaus Community resident Debbie, who died in January 2021, rested her head on her housemate Diane. (Submitted photo)

WILSON: What about Marnie? 

ZAK: Your friends.

WILSON: Did you go golfing with Marnee? 

DIANE: Yeah. 

REID: Did you feel like Deb was a sister to you?

DIANE: No, she’s not.

ZAK: What was she? 

DIANE: A friend.

ZAK: Was she a really good friend? 

REID: What do you have there? 

 DIANE: It’s March.

WILSON: Is that the calendar for Deb?

REID: How did you guys come up with the idea to make the photo calendar?

WILSON: We had been taking different trips with them and just different fun activities.

ZAK: Do you remember where we were that day? 

DIANE: Yeah. 

ZAK: Where? 

DIANE: Keystone.

REID: Keystone State Park?

WILSON: I love that one shot (DIANE: There’s Deb!)  of her just grinning with the ostrich.

DIANE: Look at her!

ZAK: What was she doing there?

DIANE: Envelope with her head. 

Sound: laughter

ZAK: She put the envelope on her head.

WILSON: One of those Amazon envelopes. She’s, she’s walking around with it on her head. Deb was humorously sneaky.

ZAK: She took great joy in simple things like Jell-o and applesauce and pudding.

REID: Can you talk a little bit more about her — her illness and her health struggles?

WILSON: I mean, she had a lot of health issues. 

ZAK: She had been doing actually really well. There — she was — there was a slow decline. But she was actually on hospice. 

WILSON: The hospice nurse could advise that she was starting to decline to where she was, I guess, considered actively dying. And so we talked about it, right, Diane? We talked about that, that Debbie might not be here when you woke up. But we wanted you to be able to say goodbye to her. So did I wake you up that morning? 

DIANE: Yeah.

WILSON: Really early. Did you sit next to Debbie? 

DIANE: Yeah, I did.

WILSON: Did you rub her hair? 

DIANE: Yeah. 

WILSON: Did you give her a kiss?

DIANE: Pfffft.

WILSON: It’s not a bad thing. You gave her a kiss goodbye, right?

DIANE: Yeah, she grabbed me. Yes, she did. And that’s when she passed is when I was holding her.

ZAK: They did a, because it was COVID, a virtual prayer service all together with all of Emmaus. And the hospice service’s spiritual director provided support in that, too. And I think that was really good for me to see that we were all supported. But it was really good for me to watch Deb, or — Deb – watch Diane interact with people and see her receive that support from so many people.  

Lauren Zak, a direct service provider at Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh sits in one of the organization’s residential homes. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)

REID: Can you talk about the ways in which society tries to sort of, like, insulate and protect people with intellectual disabilities from loss rather than helping them process it?

WILSON: It gets frustrating. I will say this just personally it gets frustrating because I’m like, they’re not inept, they — they can process emotion, they can do jobs, they —  they laugh, they have memories, they have emotions. Diane, you know, has dealt with death a lot. She understands it. Does she process it the same way that I or Lauren or you do? No, but everybody processes their grief differently. So I think it’s just a very — it’s an injustice to the residents who — they may not handle it in the best way. But who does? 

REID: How has the death and grief process been similar to or different from other experiences of death you’ve had with someone, like what is universal and what is different?

ZAK: Working through the grief and the processing of all of this was really recognizing the things that Deb had taught me in her own  nonverbal ways. Just being attentive to the person in front of you. Like she was never worried about somebody that wasn’t here. She was worried about you, and focused on you. But I think also grieving myself and grieving with Diane changed that too, because Diane also has an intellectual disability. 

And so helping her process that in her own ways. 

Her whole life was uprooted. And it was so quiet in this house because Deb was the noise. Like we didn’t know what to do because we were always focused on Deb. 

For me, taking what I learned from Deb and trying to then help Diane pick up and create her own routine and doing our own thing, just the two of us when it was the two of us and really being able to focus on — on Diane, and learning from Diane now too.

REID: Do you think Deb was happy when she died? 

DIANE: Yeah. 

REID: How are you doing? 

DIANE: Upset.

WILSON: Yeah.

ZAK: What do you do when you’re upset and you miss Deb?

DIANE: I yell to Deb. 

ZAK: Do you talk to Deb in the sunshine? 

DIANE: Yeah, yeah.

ZAK: Yeah, when you see the sunshine? That started real fast, I don’t even know how it started. But she — Diane — would look outside and see the sunshine and start talking to Debbie like, “Hi, Deb. Hey, Debbie.” She’s way more attentive to when the sun is out now. So we always say like that was — that was one of the things that Deb started doing towards the end was singing “You Are My Sunshine” more. Like she hadn’t done that for a long time.

REID: Is there anything else you want to say about Deb?

DIANE: No. 

REID: Is that okay? Is it dinnertime?

WILSON: Moe’s doesn’t close till after you’re already in your room so they’re not going to close down. So we’re good, okay?

REID: This worked out really well. So where are you going? 

Sound: Zipper, house door opening, dog barking

REID: That was very nice of you to — to share your thoughts and ideas. 

DIANE: Right. 

REID: I appreciate it. Thank you to both of you. 

WILSON AND ZAK: Yeah. Thank you.

Sound: Cars starting

WILSON: Alright, I’ll see you at Golden China. 

DIANE: I’ll give you China! Alright, Liz.

WILSON: I know, we’re going to Moe’s. 

DIANE: I like Liz.

REID: I like you, too. 

DIANE: So does Deb.

Sound: Car door shuts

MUSIC: You are my sunshine

JORDAN: When I heard Diane first talk about seeing Debbie in the sun, a group of us were on Zoom watching church. I was blown away. She was laughing so hard and really screamed: Sun! Deb! And you know, I have no reason to believe that she didn’t actually see her.

It kind of goes along with the Emmaus story in the Bible that our community’s named for. Two friends are walking along a road. Jesus joins them but they don’t know it’s Jesus until they’re sharing a meal and, boom, they recognize Jesus. So that idea of sharing meals, having community, and at times seeing the sacred in that, well, I think I see the sun coming out.

MATT THORNTON: A Valid Podcast comes to you from the All-Abilities Media Project. Based at the  Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University  in downtown Pittsburgh. You can advance your career with a graduate degree from Point Park University. Choose from more than 20 Point Park master’s and doctoral degrees. Learn online at your convenience or at Point Park’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus. Learn more at PointPark.edu/Graduate

JORDAN: I’m so glad you got to meet Diane and her staff. I have a couple more awesome people to introduce you to. The first speaks very directly to some of the issues we covered in the last segment. She’s Professor of Intellectual Disability and Palliative Care Irene Tuffrey-Wijne. She leads bereavement support groups for people with intellectual disabilities. In 2021, she won a University Alliance Award. The awarding organization says Irene’s work creates impactful solutions to one of the most difficult problems our world faces. And she does it on Zoom. 

TUFFREY-WIJNE: Should we talk about death? 

ROSIE JOUSTRA: I’m always one for being open.

TUFFREY-WIJNE: So it’s really worth talking to someone then even if it’s hard.

JOUSTRA: Definitely. It may be hard to begin with. But it does get easy with time. 

JORDAN: That was a conversation Irene had with Rosie Joustra, who has Down syndrome. Irene’s full interview for A Valid Podcast with disability advocate Alisa Grishman is a bonus episode this season. And one more bonus to tell you about. We learned earlier in this series that people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population. To a lesser degree, though, people with intellectual disabilities have been accused and convicted of sex crimes. That’s where Shawn McGill comes in — with education, and hope.

MCGILL: I think historically, the community has viewed people with disabilities as not being able to learn things. And that is so untrue. 

JORDAN: Shawn spoke with Darah Thompson for A Valid Podcast in that bonus episode.

So in A Valid Podcast all season three we’re considering social inclusion — the ability to engage in a community fully. Have we hit peak social inclusion? If you’ve been listening, I think you’ll agree that would be no. What can we do to get there? I leave you, dear listener with that question.

I hope you’ll stick with All-Abilities Media, PublicSource, Unabridged Press, all of us who are working to draw you into a world you may know nothing about. In 2022, I’ll be sharing more stories from Emmaus in a series of columns. Thanks to generous foundations, All-Abilities Media is also supporting an Emmaus resident who’ll create a photo essay about her life. And finally we’ll be hosting an online podcast salon for people with intellectual disabilities who want a chance to interview others. Learn more at allabilitiesmedia.org

MUSIC: Cocktail mambo

Thank you so much for listening. A Valid Podcast comes to you from the All-Abilities Media Project. And from interviews to music, and cover art for this podcast, the majority of us producing this work have one or more disabilities. Others on the team don’t identify as having disabilities. Halle Stockton, of the news outlet PublicSource edited for this podcast. You can also find full transcripts and great photos of A Valid Podcast’s subjects at publicsource.org. PublicSource has been a great collaborator in covering the disability community, beginning with the multimedia project ADA at 30: Accessibility in Pittsburgh.  

Liz Reid of Jeweltone Productions is our audio engineer and sound designer. Disability advocates Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman and Erin Gannon consulted on the content of this podcast.

Mick Fisher, with Creative Citizen Studios, created our cover art. George Casselberry shared some of his original harmonica and other music with us. Jane Ondrusek, accompanist with the Woodlands Foundation played piano. 

The All-Abilities Media Project at the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. CMI director Dr. Andrew Conte is a co-executive of the podcast, along with me, Jennifer Szweda Jordan. I also publish Unabridged Press and manage All-Abilities Media. Learn more at allabilitiesmedia.org.

Correction (1/21/22): An earlier version of this podcast included an erroneous statistic about the projected population of people with Down syndrome. In 2030, there will be 1.2 million people with intellectual disabilities in their 60s. The most common cause of intellectual disability is Down syndrome. Unabridged Press apologizes for this error.

This podcast was made possible with financial support from The Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust.

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