In 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared July Disability Pride Month to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. An act aimed at preventing discrimination against people with disabilities and ensuring they have the same rights and opportunities as others.
Since then, Disability Pride Month is a celebration of the disabled community. For many in the community, this month may represent different things, such as advocating for their rights and celebrating and embracing their disability as a part of human diversity. For Nijmah Othman, disability pride means “strength, perseverance, and determination.” For Alicia Graham, it’s a reminder that people with disabilities need to speak out and voice their interests for themselves and others.
At ADAPT Community Network, we often join in on the celebration through activities and participate in the NYC Disability Pride Parade. We were also one of the organizations involved in planning the first NYC disability pride events and attended with many supporters and people we serve. However, in the past two years, we conducted our own virtual disability pride parade in place of the in-person NYC parade due to the pandemic.
“Much like the in-person events, the virtual celebration puts people with disabilities front and center, along with their strengths, dreams, and challenges,” says Shaniece Frank, Assistant Director, Community Outreach. It’s also a place for family members, staff, and community partners to participate and show their support and solidarity.
This year’s disability pride parade had both a virtual and in-person component. The people we serve had the opportunity to showcase their creativity and advocacy through art, music, dance, fashion, and theatre. The people supported, and our community enjoyed the opportunity to get involved and support their peers in celebrating their achievements. “It is always exciting to be a part of something,” says Sharlita Wilkins. “We are powerful. We need to show that we are strong and positive, loving and caring, kind, lovable, and fun- I can go on and on. It’s a good reason to show our pride,” says William Branch.
The Staff were also excited about the event and the opportunity to participate. “It is my pleasure always to be offered a spot as an MC for these wonderful events. I continue to be amazed by all the efforts put forth by both the ADAPT staff and the people we serve,” says Alicia Angevine, Director of Recreation Services. “Anytime I get to share in celebrating our community, I jump at the chance. I am honored to work with such amazing people daily,” Laura Hickman, VP of Marketing.
Our commitment to empowering the people we serve does not end here. The Community Outreach department helps people achieve their dreams and goals through countless opportunities beyond the disability community. Our Specialists encourage and enable people to be part of their chosen communities.
“Our goal is not to limit people we serve to activities offered at program locations, but rather to provide disabled artists with opportunities to be a part of NYC’s artistic community,” says Peter Cobb, Director of Community Outreach. “We have cast disabled and non-disabled actors in our plays, resulting in one actor getting a part in a television show. Also, providing education opportunities for people to achieve high school equivalency and attend college with non-disabled peers.”
It is important for people supported by ADAPT to continue to have the opportunity to show their skills and achievements to the world to help educate those around them about people with disabilities. “I feel like us disabled people are second-class citizens, and it’s been that way for years. Some people think we’re slow, but I want it to change how able-bodied people think. So it is important to show them,” says Neddy Constant.