TRCF Profiles Disability Rights Activists and Advocates in Southwestern PA: Tina Calabro

By Megan Marmol

In continued celebration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, TRCF Outreach and Partnerships Intern Megan Marmol conducted interviews with disability rights advocates across our region. The profiles highlight the voices and work of some of the most impactful and committed individuals that shape Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Each week, TRCF will highlight an advocate in the community. This week we focus on Tina Calabro. Tina Calabro is a disability issues writer and speaker — and the parent of a 20-year-old son with cerebral palsy. Her popular newspaper column, “Breaking Down Barriers,” which ran for 12 years in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has been recognized for increasing awareness of issues, initiating positive changes and providing a voice for the disability community. Her feature articles and first-person pieces appear in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications. 

  1. How has the ADA impacted you personally and the work you do (professionally)?
  • The ADA is very personal to me. My son, Mark Steidl, age 20, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair and communication device. The ADA has had a tremendous impact on his life so far and will continue to have an impact in the future. His access to a full participation in his community is guaranteed by the law. As a professional, the ADA is important to be because I write about disability issues. The ADA greatly impacts the lives of the people I write about.


  1. What impact do you see the ADA has on your local community?
  • Pittsburgh is much more physically accessible than it was 25 years ago. Our community has come to expect ramps, automatic doors and other types of physical accommodations. In situations where access isn’t present, people now wonder “what’s wrong?” and ask for improvement. So the ADA has changed the expectations of everyone in the community, not just people with disabilities.  


  1. What is one area you identify that still needs improvement?
  • I think people think mainly of people with physical disabilities when they think about the need for access. But people with other types of disabilities need access and accommodation also. We as a community need to think more broadly about the access needs of people with a wide range of disabilities.


  1. What do you want people with and without disabilities to know about your work/organization?
  • The struggle for equal rights for people with disabilities in still in progress. As a writer, it is my mission to continue to communicate about these issues.


  1.  Give one all encompassing statement that summarizes the evolution of the passage of the ADA (the past, present, and future).
  • The message of the ADA is that communities are for all people, and that communities must do everything they can to make it so.