Students with physical disabilities at Edinboro fight through planned program cuts

After this academic year, Edinboro University is eliminating its in-house attendant care operation, a program that brought students with physical disabilities from across the country to the Western Pennsylvania school.

Photojournalist Stephanie Strasburg spent some time at the university in the months since the announcement, capturing the students and attendants involved in the program who have questions about their future at the school. Click here to read the full story.

Personal care aide Beth Abbate, 18, of Edinboro, adjusts Rebecca Vassell, 22, of Mt. Royal, N.J., in Rebecca’s dorm room, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Rose Hall at Edinboro University. “This was the only school in the country that offered 24-hour care, so this was really one of the only places I could go that would let me live away from home that didn’t require my parents to pay multiple shifts of people to take care of my needs of daily living,” said Ms. Vassell. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Rebecca Vassell jokes with Veronica Siaba, center, 19, and Sarah Metzler, left, 20, both of New York City, at a Sitting Scots, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Edinboro University’s Rose Hall. The Sitting Scots was formed after students were told that the 24/7 attendant care program that all three women rely on would no longer be offered at the end of the spring 2019 semester. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
From left to right, Sitting Scots liaison Melissa Hallbauer, 25, of Baxter Springs, Kan., helps Rebecca Vassell with putting on her coat as Latif Ba, 20, of Brooklyn, N.Y., gets some help with lunch from meal aide Sierra Brown, 22, of Pittsburgh, at the dining hall attached to Rose Hall,Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at Edinboro University. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Junior Alyssa Briglio, center, 20, of Lisbon, Maine, gets assistance from van driver Sead Medilovic of Erie as he drives her from the dining hall to her dorm in the rain, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at Edinboro University. The accessibility options that Edinboro provides made Briglio chose to attend Edinboro over other schools she got into, including turning down a full ride from a school in her home state of Maine that was closer to her family by 10 hours. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Students study and socialize together in the common area of Rose Hall, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at Edinboro University. The dorm has 24/7 care from personal care assistants and accessible rooms, bathrooms, and showers, among other things. “This is the only school that I can go to because, for my program, this is the only school I could find that had lab attendants to help me with my labs,” said pre-med student Victoria Fox, front center, 19, originally of Long Island, N.Y. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Personal care aides Wendy Ochs, left, of Conneaut, Ohio, and Shelly Ferrite, right, of Erie, help alumnus Bobby Gleason, 24, of Parkville, Md. with his hair and glasses as he visits fellow “wheelie” friends, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Rose Hall at Edinboro University. Gleason, who graduated with a masters degree in social work in the spring of 2018, holds opinions on the end of the university’s 24/7 attendant care program that differ from many of his friends there. “I know from moving on that 24-hour care isn’t really a bad thing,” said Gleason. “I think it’s useful skills for people to learn.” (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Amy Keller, left, 21, of Somerdale, N.J., and her partner and Sitting Scots liaison Melissa Hallbauer, at Rose Hall in December 2018 (left photo) and October 2018 (right photo), at Edinboro University. Hallbauer equates the history that Edinboro has with disabled students as a love story. “It’s a very unique, very emotional, very weighty history,” she said. “It’s very important to a lot of people that we get this right.” (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
The 1982 Edinboro State College Tartan yearbook shows photos of the school’s wheelchair basketball team as photographed, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Edinboro University. At right, the academics section of the school’s 1979 yearbook leads with a large photo of a student in a wheelchair driven by a chin-controlled joystick with a professor. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Junior Alyssa Briglio, center, 20, of Lisbon, Maine, waits to represent her sorority in homecoming court during the homecoming weekend football game, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, at Edinboro University. “We nominated her because she’s one of the sisters that represents the sorority the best,” said Briglio’s fellow Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sister, Sarah Albolino, 21, of Pittsburgh, who cheered for Briglio beside her other sorority sisters in the stands.(Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Personal care attendant David Pasky, left, 61, of West Springfield, jokes around with senior Victoria Fox, center, 19, originally of Long Island, N.Y., as she changes her scheduled shower for more time to study in the common area of Rose Hall, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at Edinboro University. “We know these kids even better than our own kids,” said Pasky about the students he helps to bathe, use the bathroom, get ready for bed, and other tasks of going about life at school. Also pictured from left to right after Fox are Halie Palmer, 21, originally of Middletown, N.J., Cheyenne Naylor, 20, originally of Tionesta, Amy Keller, 21, originally of Somerdale, N.J., and Courtney Aloen, 19, originally of Springboro. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Sitting Scots liaison Melissa Hallbauer takes a moment to phrase a question for Daniel Greenstein, the new chancellor for the State System of Higher Education, during a stop on his statewide introductory campus tour at Edinboro University, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at the school’s Frank G. Pogue Student Center in Edinboro. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Personal care aide Beth Abbate, 18, of Edinboro, tucks in Rebecca Vassell, bottom, 22, of Mt. Royal, N.J., in her dorm room bed, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Rose Hall at Edinboro University. “They really did help me through this transition,” said Vassell of the personal care attendants at the school. “ They really did show me that now I’ve proved myself academically, I can prove myself in other ways socially.” (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)