The State of Disabilities from my Perspective.
Featuring Jerry Wolffe, award-winning reporter/columnist, Oakland Press
Jerry Wolffe writes the column “The Voices of Disability” for the Oakland Press. He will share his perspective: as a person affected by cerebal palsy since birth; as one of the first "mainstreamed" children in public school in the 60s; as a successful journalist with a 40-year + career; as an activist and advocate.
Brain damage at birth caused his cerebral palsy affecting his ability to control muscle movements. As a child, he wore leg braces up to his hips. Though he had near genius-level IQ, the school district forced him to attend a special needs school. In ninth grade at a public school in 1960, he began refusing to attend “handicapped” classes and may have been the first mainstreamed kid in the country,” he said.
While in college, he worked six weeks at the Associated Press Detroit office without pay to prove he could be a teletype setter. After receiving a B.A. in psychology plus MBA studies at Wayne State University, he joined the work force and did a variety of jobs. Two years later, he caught on with United Press International and eventually became a reporter and assistant financial editor over a 40-year career.
“I told one editor my ability to walk had nothing to do with my ability to write,” he said, “I always had to prove I was a little better than the next guy to keep my job.”
He has been a Paralympian and won awards for "Voices of Disability" from the Miracle League, The Associated Press, the Michigan Press Association and The Society of Professional Journalists. Arc, a Troy, MI-based group that works to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities, named Jerry their Media Award winner.
He has said, “What matters to me is changing society. If people with disabilities had full opportunities, we could lift our entire society up a notch spiritually and economically.”
He will speak on “The State of Disabilities from my Perspective.”