Autism Acceptance Month: Disability Justice

Mini Course Lecture Series Presents State Representative Jessica Benham, speaking about Disability Justice

April 13, 2021

A disability justice framework understands the following:

  • All bodies are unique and essential.
  • All bodies have strengths and needs that must be met.
  • We are powerful, not despite the complexities of our bodies, but because of them.
  • All bodies are confined by ability, race, gender, sexuality, class, nation state, religion, and more, and we cannot separate them.

Video recorded 4/13/21


Keynote Lecturer: State Representative Jessica Benham

State Representative (D) Jessica Benham (District 36) is the former Director of Development for the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA), a grassroots self-advocacy project run by Autistic people for Autistic people. After moving back home to Pittsburgh following college, she co-founded PCAA, which is the only LGBTQ Autistic-led advocacy organization in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Jessica is an advocate for Autistic rights, interested in creating sensory-friendly spaces, increasing access to Individual Education and 504 Plans for Autistic children in public schools, helping parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals better understand Autistic people, and reducing barriers to employment for Autistic adults.

Through her work at PCAA and elsewhere, Jessica has worked to ensure that individuals with disabilities are treated fairly in the legislative process. She has provided feedback and consultation for legislation as varied as Pittsburgh City Council's recent gun legislation, healthcare efforts at the state level, and the effort to create autism designations on license plates and driver’s licenses.

In addition to her work and academic career, Jessica is also a deeply and actively engaged community member in District 36. She has been a member of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council since 2016, serving in a number of leadership roles over the past several years and attending community meetings throughout the Zone, which covers much of District 36. She is an active community volunteer, doing everything from greeting attendees at South Side Park's Goat Fest to serving as co-captain of the East Slopes Block Watch. Jessica was elected and has served as Judge of Elections since 2018.

Jessica has B.A. degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies from Bethel University, an M.A. in Communication from Minnesota State University, and an M.A. in Bioethics from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in the Southside Slopes with her husband, Karl, their two cats, Ravi and Neal, and their dog, Winston.

Panel: Young Professionals, Disability Advocates

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