The important disability rights documentary, “I Go Home,” which has its roots here at Millersville University and was produced by WITF last year, has hit another milestone. It has been picked up for national broadcast and will be shown on PBS and 90 affiliates in March 2017.
Over the past five years, Millersville has hosted a series of disability policy conferences facilitated by the University Honors College, which brought together people and organizations around the issues of disability rights and civic engagement. One outcome was the formation of a statewide coalition—the Pennsylvania History Coalition Honoring People with Disability—headed by Executive Director Dana Olsen. The documentary was another outcome, along with research and community programming throughout Pennsylvania. Millersville University remains a founding member of the Coalition.
A grant from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council provided partial funding, with proceeds disbursed through the Commonwealth Institute to support WITF’s production and editing. “I Go Home” details the history of the disability rights movement and the important impact of the now shuttered Pennhurst State School and Hospital. The documentary features interviews with people who lived or worked at the institution, along with the insights of scholars and advocates in the field. “I Go Home” had its first public showing at the last MU conference in March 2016, followed several weeks later by a formal premiere in Harrisburg.
Dr. Dennis Downey, director of Millersville’s Honors College, was a consultant and on-air commentator for the documentary. He was the keynote speaker at the Harrisburg premiere and has spoken at several public events surrounding the film. Downey says this documentary is “freighted with significance,” and now with a national broadcast more people will be able to experience it.
Downey has dedicated many years of his life researching and writing about disability rights. His son Thomas was born with disabilities so there has been a “personal dimension” to his involvement with these issues. “This is often the case with scholarship and advocacy,” he said.
“It has been very rewarding,” says Downey. “The personal became the professional for me.”
Downey is currently completing a book about Pennhurst with co-author James Conroy. Downey and Conroy are also planning a national conference at the National Constitution Center to commemorate the anniversary of Pennhurst’s closing in 1987.
“The University was a key collaborator in what has evolved into a larger phenomenon,” says Downey. “The Honors College was a conduit to make it happen.”
Be sure to check your local listings for a screening of “I Go Home,” and visit witf.org for more information on the documentary.