Chicago Disability Pride organizers celebrated the 10th anniversary with a parade and festival in the Loop July 20.
The oldest celebration of its kind, Chicago Disability Pride inspired subsequent parades in Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, Silicon Valley, Detroit, Colorado Springs, New Jersey, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
"Like so many other great elements of the city, the Disability Pride Parade has become a Chicago tradition," said Gary Arnold, a parade volunteer who works at Access Living. "Several decades ago, we were taught to hide disability. We were taught to overcome disability. Now, we have the space and we have the support to wear our disabilities proudly."
The parade stepped off at Plymouth Court behind Harold Washington Library, designated honorary Disability Pride Parade Way, culminating in a festival on Daley Plaza.
Broadcast journalist Karen Meyerdeaf feature reporter for ABC 7 News whose segments focus on people with disabilitiesserved as grand marshal.
The festival included performances by the Eden Band, Collective Sole, Robbi Style, Vaughn Demeanor, Praetorium Sign Language Community Church Choir and Momenta Dance Company.
Over 30 organizations hosted information and activity booths at the festival, including many local disability service and civil rights organizations. Many of the organizations aimed to educate people with disabilities on community resources and issues.
Representatives of Illinois Imaginesa coalition of the Illinois Department of Human Services, rape crisis centers, disability service agencies and self-advocatesalso educated attendees on services for women with disabilities who have survived sexual assault.
"Law enforcement and hospital care providers often question the credibility of people with disabilities," said Megan Blomqueist, who works with Rape Victim Advocates. "There is a belief that people with disabilities aren't sexual and, in turn, aren't rapeable … but people with developmental disabilities are raped at a higher rate than people without."
There are many barriers for people with disabilities, explained Ken Gunn, first deputy commissioner of Chicago's Commission on Human Relations, which enforce discrimination laws and assists hate crime victims. Many employers do not accommodate disabled employees, many apartment buildings are inaccessible and many stores and restaurants do not have ramps or accessible bathrooms. The CCHR serves to mediate and adjudicate these situations.
"It's important for [CCHR] to be here today because so many disabled individuals are discriminated against in employment, housing and public accommodations," said Gunn. "We want to educate the disabled community so they know about our services."