With banners and heads held high, more than 40 people from AHRC Nassau’s Residential Self-Advocacy Council marched in this year’s Disability Pride Parade on Sunday, July 14, in New York City, hosted by Disability Pride NYC, Inc.
Joining thousands of disability advocates from across the metro area, advocates followed the route from Madison Square Park to Union Square West, rallying for disability pride, alongside agencies, including New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc., AHRC New York City and the New York City Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities.
At a time when people with disabilities remain under-represented, disability pride is an important call to action. Self-advocates from AHRC Nassau chose to participate in the parade, and assist in the parade’s objective of creating greater inclusion, awareness and visibility – for people with disabilities as unique individuals and as part of a larger disability community.
Self-advocate Carolyn Williams said she wanted to join the parade to be a part of a greater community who share her experience of having a disability. Her sentiment was echoed by self-advocate Catherine Fox, who proudly observed, “Everyone in the parade was like me!”
Standing side by side fellow disability advocates was important, but equally important was the joyful recognition from parade-goers.
Self-advocate Alex Aynat “felt special going to the parade.” He said, “I didn’t know so many people cared about us.”
Self-advocate Maryanne Adreance recalled, “I liked seeing all the people along the way cheering us on.”
This empowering opportunity for self-advocates was the result of significant planning and facilitation by
AHRC Nassau Residential Managers Peggy Cruz and Corinne Kennedy, who drew on a combined 30 years of experience to prepare transportation, support staff and other important logistics so that self-advocates could focus on the unique experience of being a part of disability pride.
“The parade is always a lot of fun,” said Peggy. “It is a great way for people with disabilities and those that support them to cheer, march and be proud. As a supporter and strong advocate for people with disabilities, it was an honor to march alongside such amazing, strong people.”
Corinne shares Peggy’s passion for the event and understanding of how the parade taps into the need for greater visibility.
“I choose to be a part of this event because I love that it gives people a platform to redefine the public’s perception of people that are living with disabilities. By attending, I am given the chance to witness the people of AHRC Nassau in a judgment-free space surrounded by people all working towards the same goal; to spread awareness of the challenges people with disabilities face each day,” said Corinne.
“The people I attend the parade with each year always say, ‘I love walking to help people with special needs,’ ‘I love talking to the news about who I am’ and ‘It was fun because I got to celebrate me; it was so awesome!’” said Corinne. “This event not only allows people to advocate for themselves, but also provides staff with an opportunity to facilitate in the growth of those we work with.”
AHRC Nassau has participated in the parade since it first began five years ago. The Disability Pride Parade was started in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and has evolved into an annual parade celebrating and building awareness of the local disability community.
Following the excitement and energy of the 2019 parade, planning has already begun for next year.