Advocate Found His Voice at Hartwick

At Hartwick, Dan Pezzetta ‘21 discovered who he really was.

Hartwick College graduate Dan Pezzetta

I was born with aortic stenosis but was always apprehensive about labeling myself as a disabled individual. But taking Dr. Laurel Elder’s classes, she changed that trajectory and made me feel more comfortable about that identity – and being someone who focused on disability rights.

Pezzetta, now working on his master’s degree in Legislative Affairs at George Washington University, presented “The Fight For Disability Rights in the Past And Present: Why We Cannot Forget the Past While Preserving Our Rights in the Present” as part of Hartwick’s regional Sociology Symposium on Saturday, April 1.

His talk focused on the historical atrocities that disabled people went through, from barbaric institutions to legalized sterilization, as well as the strides made, including the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prevented discrimination of people with disabilities.

“The disabled community is the largest marginalized group,” he said. “It affects all races, gender identities and ages. You can be born with a disability or get a disability at any point in your life. It affects everyone.”

Unfortunately, he noted, there have been several recent backslides, including the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic really othered us,” he said. “Everyone was saying, ‘oh, it’s only the sick and elderly who are dying.’ It was so dehumanizing.”

His own health was at risk, and with his mother as a nurse on the front lines of the pandemic, he stayed in lockdown in Holmes Hall from March to August 2020. 

He channeled his experiences – and his English major – into his memoir, Disposed: A Story of Chronic Illness During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

“I wanted to give people the feeling that they weren’t alone in this,” he said. “It’s been so traumatizing for so many of us. And I wanted to show able-bodied people a perspective they may have never considered before.” 

He also started his Instagram, Disability Rewritten, where he shares information, advocacy and encouragement. The account now has over 1,000 followers. He has also spoken at M.I.T, Harvard Medical School, and Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill.

“I really do owe Hartwick a lot,” he said. “This pace was formative in me being ready to advocate and educate people. It’s good to be back.”

April 10, 2023

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