A Fierce Kind of Love, a project of Visionary Voices
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University


The Institute on Disabilities has embarked on the creative interpretation of an untold civil rights story - the history of the Intellectual Disability Rights Movement in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

Forty years ago, living a fully realized life in the community was impossible for most people with intellectual disabilities. Pressured by medical professionals and society, many parents gave up their children to institutional care, where they experienced abuse and neglect. For parents who kept their children at home, the burden was at least as great. While some reluctantly accepted their situation, others, predominately mothers, were determined to change systems. These "accidental warriors" dedicated themselves to fighting for their children's rights, forging a new community of activists. As a direct result of their efforts, Pennsylvania became the first state to pass landmark legislation that opened public schools to children with disabilities, closed institutions, and made it possible for people to live self-determined lives in the community.

Despite its significance, Pennsylvania's role in the Movement remains largely untold. Today, significant funding cuts threaten to unravel decades of advocacy and advancement, with a potentially devastating impact on the 12,000 members of Philadelphia's intellectual disability community. The Institute will produce the play A Fierce Kind of Love as the centerpiece of a community history and civic dialogue project, offering multiple ways to interpret this rich history and prevailing issues. A community connected to its roots can be a powerful force for change. Through performance, photography, storytelling and interview, we hope to stimulate new understanding, and engage a broad community in the stories, themes, and ongoing activism of the Movement.

Visionary Voices

Disability History

Reading Room

LOGO: The PEW Center for Arts & Heritage logo

A Fierce Kind of Love has been supported
by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

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