Thousands of people with disabilities, their friends and family members marched down Broadway this past Sunday in New York City’s first annual Disability Pride Parade. The event, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office, ICS and other organizations, was part of ADA25NYC, New York City’s year-long celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25th Anniversary. The ADA, signed into law on July 26, 1990, gave people with disabilities and their allies a powerful legal framework to fight for the right to live independently and receive the accommodations needed to do so.
ICS members and staff show their pride
More than 100 ICS members and staff rolled and marched in the parade and spirits were high.
Anna Fay (pictured in Gallery 1), ICS Senior Vice President for Independent Living Services, has been on the frontlines of the disability rights movement both before and after the ADA was passed, fighting for equality and access. At Sunday’s parade Anna said, “This is the first time I have been sitting here on the street with other people with disabilities and not been blocking traffic to protest something. This is a celebration and it’s an amazing and wonderful feeling. I feel a tremendous sense of pride. It is unbelievable.”
ICS member and volunteer Manyon Lyons, shown with Anna, said, “Today is about real independence. This is what we fight for every day. It is not the dis-ability, but the ability that needs to be seen. People like Helen Keller should be here today – the many people with disabilities who came before us. It would amaze them.”
Member Josue Sinvil (pictured in Gallery 1), shown with his brother Patrick said, “Today means freedom. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. I can get around just like anybody else. If there’s a parade, I have to be there.”
Patrick added, “I’m here to support my younger brother and all people with disabilities.”
Azlee Blackwood (pictured in Gallery 2), a member as well as an ICS volunteer, said, “With the ADA they gave us a way to fight for our goals. There are a lot of people out there who don’t know about the ADA and something like this parade can help open their eyes.”
Debra Barr, shown with Azlee, added, “I am here to show my support because I have a disability and I want to help open more doors for other people with disabilities.”
Esteban Santos (pictured in Gallery 2), Assistant in the ICS Document Management Unit, was born with spina bifida and has battled his entire life to be treated as a productive part of society. He said, “I’m here today to represent all of the people with disabilities in the New York community. I am proud because I have seen so much discrimination and lack of independence and today we’re here to make sure people know that we never want to be institutionalized again. Today represents freedom, pride, independence and dignity. You can see we all came out and used transportation. We should be able to do anything anyone else can do – buy a house, work. Independence and freedom. It’s very important.”
The Disability Pride Parade was not only a celebration – it was a way to bring people with disabilities – who are so often invisible – into the public eye. News coverage of the parade was included in New York’s major newspapers and TV stations, as well as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and gained the attention of local and national leaders.
Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (pictured in Gallery 2) was a primary author and the chief Senate sponsor of the ADA. As Grand Marshall of Sunday’s parade he spoke about both the many strides taken since the law’s passage and the critical rights and avenues of access yet to be achieved.
Noting the dismal employment rates of Americans with disabilities and the poor wages many who do work receive, former Senator Harkin said, “The ADA opened the door for transformational improvements and opportunities for Americans with disabilities to go about daily life and access the programs and opportunities so many of us take for granted. However, the promise of the ADA is unfulfilled. So I want all of you to know that I may have resigned from the U.S. Senate, but I have not resigned from this fight!”
Victor Calise (pictured in Gallery 2), Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities said, “This is a great day. We’re changing the city’s environment and we’re opening people’s minds so that everyone has an opportunity to seek achievement, prosperity and fulfillment.” The commissioner’s daughter, Lola, shown here with her dad looking on, then treated the crowd to a song she wrote in honor of the ADA. Standing behind them are Oh Joon (pictured in Gallery 2) Permanent Representative to the United Nations of the Republic of Korea, who talked about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international treaty that, as Rep. Joon noted, the United States has yet to sign. Also standing is Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Speaking before the kick off, Mayor Bill d’Blasio (pictured in Gallery 2) noted that Senator Harkin had called the ADA the 20th Century’s Emancipation Proclamation and said that its passage sparked action all over the world.