Embracing Diversity In Celebration Of The Americans With Disabilities Act

Jul 16, 2014, 17:23 ET from The California State Independent Living Council (SILC)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- If you listen carefully, you'll hear individuals, businesses and communities in Northern California joining together and embracing diversity as a tribute to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Disability Awareness Day. On July 19, hundreds of individuals and the Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in Northern California will participate in the 5th Annual West Coast Disability Pride Parade & Festival (Parade & Festival) in celebration of disabilities as an element of human diversity. Co-sponsored by the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center (SVILC) and the Office of Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, the event is open to people from all backgrounds and varying disabilities to demonstrate their pride in who they are and their sense of belonging. 

"We don't refer to this as just a parade, we refer to it as a fully inclusive community awareness event," said SVILC Executive Director Nayana Shah. "It's not ours alone – it's the entire communities' event. People with and without disabilities, businesses, elected officials and community organizations are invited to attend and share in the pride they have for themselves, one another and our communities."

The seeds of the disability pride parade grew from the leadership of Sarah Triano. In 2003, after receiving the Paul G. Hearne Leadership award and $10,000, Triano started the first disability pride parade in Chicago, IL to give people a forum to connect with one another and salute what each individual had to offer. Today, cities across the country and throughout the world celebrate the "birthday" of the ADA with disability pride parades.

For SVILC, the Parade & Festival began five years ago in a parking lot in front of the SVILC building where approximately 25 vendors and 400 individuals came together to honor human diversity and raise awareness that it's okay to be different. This year, the event has grown to include approximately 45 vendors, many of whom are sponsors, including big-name sponsors such as Anthem Blue Cross, Google and the California Department of Rehabilitation as well as local community providers, including El Camino Hospital, the Santa Clara Family Health Plan and more.

According to SVILC's Director of Development and Communications Debra Sue Stevens, "We are hoping for as many as 1,000 individuals at the event, which also features a number of interactive experiences, including the Disability, Veterans & Aging Resource Fair and an open microphone for individuals to stop by, sign up and perform by reading a poem, dancing, rapping or playing an instrument. The choice of expression may vary, but all performances relate to disabilities and diversity."

As is true of all ILCs throughout California, SVILC develops and maintains a myriad of strong community relationships in serving people living with disabilities. Each relationship varies, yet the common goal is to offer individuals living with disabilities access to information and tools to live independently while advocating for equal opportunities and access for all. In the same way, the Parade & Festival reflects the diversity of individuals and communities joining in the celebration of equality with the common goal of embracing diversity.

California State Independent Living Council's Executive Director Liz Pazdral reflected, "The reach of the Parade & Festival is a testament that, although each of us is unique, we are all part of the same community and deserve equality as reflected by the intent of the ADA."

The California State Independent Living Council (SILC) is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living.

The SILC Mission: To Create Policy and System Change for Independent Living

SOURCE The California State Independent Living Council (SILC)