SU’s Burton Blatt Institute to honor legacy of disability rights advocates at Oct. 10 breakfast in New York City
SU’s Burton Blatt Institute to honor legacy of disability rights advocates at Oct. 10 breakfast in New York CitySeptember 20, 2006Jaime Winne Alvarezjlwinne@syr.edu
On Oct. 10, the Burton Blatt Institute: Centers of Innovation on Disability at Syracuse University will honor the legacy of its namesake and other advocates for the civil rights of people with disabilities as it commemorates the 40th anniversary of Blatt’s groundbreaking book “Christmas in Purgatory” (Human Policy Press, 1966) and celebrates National Disability Awareness Month. The institute will recognize the occasion with a breakfast at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.
The celebration also marks the establishment of the institute one year ago to continue the work of education pioneer Blatt (1927-85) through activities that promote the civic, economic and social participation of people with disabilities. Leaders from disability, advocacy, educational and corporate communities; government; and family and friends will pay tribute to the work and the men who shone a spotlight on those forgotten in mental institutions.
“At the Burton Blatt Institute, it is our mandate to help transform law, policy and most importantly, attitudes that hold back people with disabilities from their full realization. We do this in the name of Burton Blatt, to continue his legacy,” says Peter Blanck, chair of the institute and University Professor at Syracuse University.
The breakfast will celebrate Blatt’s legacy with special tribute to former New York State Gov. Hugh L. Carey. A lifelong champion for the rights of people with disabilities, Carey signed the 1975 Willowbrook Consent Decree, committing New York to sweeping reforms and ending the warehousing of people with intellectual and other disabilities. “Christmas in Purgatory,” co-authored by Fred Kaplan, presents a searing portrait of the horrific treatment of people with mental retardation in America’s institutions and started a revolution for the civil rights of people with disabilities.
Pulitzer Prize winner George F. Will, one of the most recognized and widely read writers in the world, will deliver the keynote address. Will won a Pulitzer in 1977 for “distinguished commentary on a variety of topics” and is considered one of the most influential writers in America today. SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor will speak about Scholarship in Action, an SU initiative that combines a dynamic educational approach with emphasis on making a difference in the world.
“Burton Blatt came to Syracuse University 35 years ago to continue his work and passion advocating for people with disabilities. His legacy as a pioneering figure in the disability rights movement continues today through the work of the Burton Blatt Institute,” says Chancellor Cantor. “BBI’s work reflects the University’s vision of Scholarship in Action by its connection with the world through its mission to advance persons with disabilities — resonating with societal needs and providing opportunities for new approaches and ideas to enhance their participation in society. We at Syracuse University are fortunate to be tied to this piece of American history.”
The Burton Blatt Institute takes its name from Burton Blatt, a pioneer in humanizing services for people with mental retardation, staunch advocate of deinstitutionalization and national leader in special education. Blatt was dean of the School of Education and Centennial Professor at Syracuse University, served as director of SU’s Division of Special Education and Rehabilitation, and founded SU’s Center on Human Policy to promote a more open and accepting society for persons with disabilities.
For tickets to the breakfast and more information on the Burton Blatt Institute, visit http://bbi.syr.edu.