WNY Disability Pride Celebration: “My challenges don’t define me”

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Sunday kicked off the first Disability Pride Celebration through Western New York Independent Living. Hundreds come out to march through Delaware Park celebrating the diversity of the disability community. In the middle of the park takeover- hundreds celebrate with a parade, food and music.

Michael Rogers with the Self Advocacy Association said, “I’m proud of my challenges, but those aren’t the things that define me.”

He shared a message from this prideful community. “We are a part of society, but a lot of society doesn’t know that though.”

For Rogers, he doesn’t want to be defined by the word “disability.” And to many others, its strictly a medical label.

He said, “Part of that is to have events like this, to show society who we are and what we can do, because that’s the only way people are going to learn.”

Director of Advocacy, Todd Vaarwerk, said the group here is on a mission: Change the way people think about and define disability. He said, “What we want, is to be able to participate in everything else the community gets to participate in. I have a disability, and I have a degree in disability law, but i’m also a science fiction fan, I have family, friends, there are things that I like to do. All of that gets forgotten because people think for 24-hours-a-day, they think i’m thinking about what it’s like to be in this chair.”

Now they’re fighting for the right to be included, and to celebrate the  diversity and talent in this group of Western New Yorkers. Vaarwerk said, “Very often, when you think about people with disabilities, they’re discussed as a vulnerable population.”

He says education and communication is key to integrating people with disabilities into society.He said, “This is all going to be about the fact that we have a common element. We are part of this community, and we are here to stay.”

If you’d like to learn more about  Western New York Independent Living, head to their webpage here. 

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