Redefining Inclusion Premiere Event
Panelists included disability experts and celebrities
Syracuse University Assistant Vice President of Regional Programs in Los Angeles Joan L. Adler welcomed the audience and introduced the evening’s moderator, Beth Myers, executive director at the Taishoff Center. Myers explained that the panel members were chosen to create a mix of academics, media, and self-advocates. Their focus is on disability in the media and garnering national attention for the work they’re doing for inclusive education. “Syracuse University has a long history of being at the forefront of the disability rights movement,” Myers said. “We feel strongly that our students deserve to have a place at a university. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been the most excluded from higher education deserve to have the chance to make the same kinds of decisions for themselves that every other college student gets to make.”
The panelists were:
• Dan Habib, filmmaker, Intelligent Lives, Including Samuel
• Micah Fialka-Feldman ’15, self-advocate and teaching assistant at Syracuse University, featured in Intelligent Lives
• Brent Elder G’16, professor, inclusive education, Rowan University
• Cheryl Theis, education advocate, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
• Kathleen Gee, professor, special education, California State University, Sacramento
Moderated by Beth Myers, Ed.D., executive director, Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education at Syracuse University
Viewing a trailer for Intelligent Lives
Special guests included Megan Bomgaars and Sean McElwee from the Emmy Award-winning A&E series Born This Way. The show follows adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions while defying society’s expectations. During the event, the show’s film crew followed them, interviewing faculty and audience members as they shot footage for a future episode.
Actress Amy Brenneman became involved in disability advocacy to support her daughter who has cognitive disabilities. “You stop looking at ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ and you start looking at ‘strengths’ and ‘challenges’,” she says. “The question to ask is, ‘What can you do and what do you need help with?’”
The audience viewed a 14-minute trailer of Intelligent Lives, a new documentary film by Dan Habib that explores how the segregation of people with disabilities became the norm, why this segregation is slowly being dismantled, and how some people with intellectual disabilities are blazing bold new paths. The film centers on three individuals, including Micah Fialka-Feldman, whose parents insisted he be included in general education despite scoring 40 on an IQ test. Micah graduated from high school, attended college, and is now a co-teacher at Syracuse University.
“We are excited to bring the Taishoff disability program to the attention of our West Coast alumni and community members,” Adler says. “Showcasing innovative, relevant campus programs such as this is a primary goal of the University’s Los Angeles office.”
The Taishoff Center
Established in 2009, the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusion Higher Education provides full and equitable participation of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in higher education. The center has secured more than $6.2M in grants and federal funding from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Taishoff Family Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education. In 2015, the Taishoff Center was selected as a model transition and postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities.
InclusiveU at Syracuse University opens the doors to higher education and offers a comprehensive college experience for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. InclusiveU is an initiative of the Taishoff Center, housed in Syracuse University’s School of Education. Students work toward a non-credit college certificate in a specialized area of study according to their interests, participate in social activities on campus, acquire marketable job skills, receive advisory services, attend seminars, and have the opportunity to live in an inclusive campus facility.