The ReHabilitation Center was organized in Olean, NY, by a grassroots group of visionary parents of children with disabilities in 1957. Through their perseverance, hard work and advocacy, they were successful in providing educational and vocational training for children who otherwise would not have experienced the dignity and independence deserved by all people, with or without limitations.
The 1950s have been described as “The Dark Ages” for children with disabilities. Americans were fearful of people with disabilities. Prior to legislation requiring public education for children with cognitive or emotional disabilities, deafness, blindness or the need for speech therapy, parents had few options other than to educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.
By 1957, the times began to change partly due to the rising awareness of the needs of children with disabilities through the advocacy efforts of parents like those who originated The ReHabilitation Center. On October 2, 1957, a handful of parents of children with disabilities met at Mrs. Victoria Reswick’s home to discuss the lack of options for their children. Mrs. Reswick, whose son James Guy Reswick had Down’s Syndrome, wanted to reach out to parents who shared her frustration. She placed an ad in the local Olean Times Herald, and the group that came together and started advocating for children immediately. They lobbied doctors and politicians and, in 1958, their organization became incorporated.