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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Disability Pride Month rally commemorates ADA’s anniversary, calls for further change

Article Originally Published by Hannah Johnson on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Hannah Johnson on North Texas Daily

Hosted by two local advocacy groups, a disability rights rally against ableism was held on the lawn of the Courthouse on the Denton Square on July 26. 

The Self Determination Group and Denton Inclusion Society hosted Disability Justice NOW! to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and protest against forms of ableism, discrimination and violence towards disabled individuals. At the event, music was played, speeches were given and a march around the Square rounded out the night.

The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990. As a civil rights law, ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places open to the general public. Through the law, equal opportunities are supposed to be guaranteed for individuals with disabilities. 

However, Cindi Paschall, the Self Determination Group assistant and speaker at the rally, said the ADA has not guaranteed rights for individuals with disabilities.  

“The ADA has a promise that is not recognized,” Paschall said. “We need that to be recognized. Awareness is the first step to progress.” 

The rally also aimed to bring awareness to individuals with disabilities. Martha Bergen, psychologist and the training and education coordinator for the Disability Inclusion Society, said there is more to be done for disability rights. 

“Every step is progress, but it’s a floor, not a ceiling,” Bergen said. “We want to keep aiming higher.” 

Members of OUTreach Denton supported the rally. Jenny Baker, OUTreach Denton board member and exhibit coordinator at Greater Denton Arts Council, said one of OUTreach’s main focuses is human rights and equity of all people. 

“We’re here in support of Disability Pride Month,” Baker said. “We’re here to listen to what the voices of disabled people have to say about their rights and what they need.” 

At the rally, Alejandrina Guzman of Forth Worth and Adapt of Texas told the story of individuals with disabilities protesting in Lyft’s Austin headquarters to make Lyft’s Voting Access Program accessible to wheelchair users. Through its LyftUp Initiative during the 2020 election season, Lyft would provide rides to the polls. However, Lyft did not initially promise any wheel-chair accessible rides.  

After protesting in Lyft’s office for eight hours, Lyft said it would work with the group to provide access to wheelchair users. Guzman said she shared this story to show that disabled people have power. 

“We know laws cannot ultimately protect us, but we will protect each other,” Guzman said. 

The Self Determination Group is based in Haltom City and serves 10 counties including Denton. An affiliate of The Arc of Dallas-Fort Worth Area, the group advocates for human rights and inclusion and the concept of self-determination.

To the Self Determination Group, self-determination means giving a person the right to take reasonable risks and make decisions without others’ attempts to protect individuals with disabilities.

“We’re disabled, we’re proud,” Paschall said. “We do not have bad lives — we have good lives.” 

July is Disability Pride Month, but Paschall said disability pride should not be constrained to a month. 

“We don’t need just a month, we need every day,” Paschall said. 

Source: North Texas Daily

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