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WNYers mark 31st anniversary of ADA through virtual Disability Pride celebration

Graphic showing DISABILITY PRIDE OF WNY in blue on a black background
Disability Pride of WNY

This week Western New Yorkers celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the last week of Disability Pride Month. Buffalo typically has a parade and downtown celebration. However, this year the celebration was a week-long series of virtual events.

The live streams began Monday with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz reading a proclamation and describing the protections the ADA has afforded Americans with disabilities.

"The act ensures the civil rights of all Americans with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion," Poloncarz said while reading the proclamation in a recorded video. "The legislation established a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against all people with disabilities."

Poloncarz also emphasized a commitment from the county to work "with all residents with a disability to ensure equal access and equal opportunity to services."

The week's events ran at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. everyday through Friday. At 3 p.m. on Monday, WNYIL's feature was a Buzzfeed video called “Things People With Disabilities Wish You Knew."

“I so often hear people send the message like thank god that's not me when they see someone with a disability or like thank god that's not me or my kid. And that's sending the message that disability is equal to someone who is less than or broken or incomplete and that's not the case," said Pamela Rae Schuller.

The day capped off with a 7 p.m. event called a “Historical Glance at the Disability Movement & Reflections from an ADA Generation.”

WNYIL Chief Community Engagement Officer Daniel Colpoys said the week's goals were educating the community about disability, celebrating the disability community, and continuing advocacy for equal rights.

“We don't want people with disabilities to feel ashamed about having a disability, we want them to be proud. And we want to show the community their accomplishments and why there should be full inclusion in their communities. We want people with disabilities to live in the homes of their choice in the communities of their choice and participate socially where they want to participate. And we want, you know, to educate the community, on the successes and what people with disabilities have to offer,” said Colpoys.

Here is the full list of events from WNYIL, which were recorded and are still available on their Facebook Page "Disability Pride of WNY":
Monday July 26

  • 10:00 AM – Welcome, County Executive Proclamation, the ADA Explained
  • 3:00 PM – Things People with Disabilities Wish You Knew
  • 7:00 PM – An Historical Glance at the Disability Movement & Reflections from an ADA Generation

Tuesday July 27

  • 10:00 AM – Sponsor Highlight Reel & Disability + Work: Let’s Stop Wasting Talent
  • 3:00 PM – Adaptive Watersports Highlight & Lisa Maria Cruz: A Journey Through Schizophrenia
  • 7:00 PM – Lives Worth Living: Documentary about Disability Rights

Wednesday July 28

  • 10:00 AM – Deaf Access Services & The Truth About Growing Up Disabled
  • 3:00 PM – Service Animals & Self Advocacy Association of New York State
  • 7:00 PM – Pre-recorded Interview with Judith Heumann

Thursday July 29

  • 10:00 AM – Visually Impaired Advancement (VIA) & Disability Sensitivity Training
  • 3:00 PM – Disability Rights Trivia
  • 7:00 PM – Young Leaders & Advocates Network (YLAN): LIVE Young Leaders Panel

Friday July 30

  • 10:00 AM – Amherst Challenger Baseball Highlights and Information
  • 3:00 PM – National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2020 Awards Highlights
  • 7:00 PM – Closing, Thank you to our Organizers and Sponsors
Emyle Watkins is an investigative journalist covering disability for WBFO.