The book On the Outside was first published by the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council in 1998, the same year the state closed its last institution for people with developmental disabilities. The Council is commemorating the 25th anniversary of On the Outside and the milestone it represents by publishing an e-book edition on Kindle.
It is often said that those who do not learn from the past are likely to repeat it. We believe this is true about the deinstitutionalization of people with developmental disabilities. On the Outside offers first-hand accounts from people about their experiences living in institutions and shows how their lives have changed since returning to the community. They speak frankly about the challenges they have faced, both inside and outside of institutions. Yet all agreed that their homes in the community provided more freedom, dignity and opportunities than a large facility ever could.
The majority of our Council members are people who have developmental disabilities or are parents of children who do. These stories resonate deeply with us. We grieve for the people who have been mistreated and excluded from society. Their stories inspire us to do better – to recognize and value the lives of people with disabilities and their contributions as neighbors, classmates, co-workers and friends.
We hope On the Outside helps readers from all walks of life better understand this important part of our state’s history. We are grateful to the West Virginia Humanities Council for their financial support of the project. And we are forever indebted to the people who shared their stories and the friends and family members who assisted them in doing so.