The official website of the documentary in progress

From Institution To Independence:

The Donna Jay Story

Courage, Painting by Donna Jay


Donna and her some of her peers survived the darkest night.


Donna Jay, a Salem resident who has developmental and intellectual disabilities, was sent at a young age to Paul A. Dever State School, and later to Danvers State Hospital. She didn’t learn how to read, write, or take care of herself until she was sixteen. Donna was a pioneer in Self-Advocacy long before anyone dreamed up the term. She dared to speak up and defend other residents while in Dever, despite punishments. Her willpower and spirit to keep improving her life are a shining star for everyone. Her story mirrors the evolution of care for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities from institutions, to the Inclusion Movement, to Self-Direction.


Today, Donna Jay presents workshops for MASS (Mass Advocates Standing Strong), serving as Vice-Chairperson of the Executive Board, and gives peer support to families served by The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport.  Now she wants her story to be told to help others still making the journey, and to keep the conversations going with families, teachers, and administrators so progress will continue.


No other time in history has such progress been made.

We must keep overcoming the many obstacles so that every soul matters.