MLK Day and Disability Rights

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA (Americans’ with Disabilities Act), I look forward to building upon disability experiences alongside those who made a significant impact on the freedoms we exercise today. Many don’t relate disability rights with how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s promotion of civil rights issues gained national attention towards the subject, but his work also gave our injustices an unprecedented voice where there was none before. He managed to proceed and progress stereotyping against people with disabilities. He impressed the mentality upon society that separate is not equal. In particular, the quote, “It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people,” replaces the idea of inclusion for individuals with disabilities as opposed to its exclusion to everyone else.

Disability Civil Rights March

The group, Your Invisible Disability, has been invited to participate with the Disability Community and disABILITYLink to march in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. In the spirit of the mantra, “advocating for human rights, not special rights,” our collective efforts to educate on-lookers and participants alike remains overwhelmingly successful. Our chants and conversations represent the parallel between the two. The following slogans are some of what was reiterated during our march.

  • Disability rights are civil rights
  • Nothing about us, Without Us
  • Our home, not nursing homes
  • We have spoken, we’re not broken

There is sufficient fear surrounding what many don’t know about disabilities and disability awareness, mostly because of ignorance and the lack of communication between communities that have much more in common than they’re willing to explore.

Organizations like disABILITYLink prove that personal relationships can break down walls of misunderstanding. The parade/march is another great opportunity to reach an integrated population that we may otherwise never meet. In addition, the Jazzy Air® 2 power wheelchair elevates me up to 12 inches, helping me to be very approachable to those who many otherwise not feel comfortable speaking with a person with a visible disability. I’m sure the crown and sash that I wear is also very helpful, especially for the young princesses in the crowd who dream of growing up to be a queen.

Jazzy Air® 2 Wheelchair Historic Experience

While we haven’t had the privilege of crossing the nationally historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, the march in Atlanta took us down the U.S. Civil Rights trail in close proximity and direct access to Historic Fire Station No. 6, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Morehouse College, the family home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many notable stops in the Sweet Auburn community where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King, walked with their children, Martin Luther, III, Yolanda, Dexter and Bernice King. The march ended at the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change where Dr. Bernice King holds a well-attended religious ceremony in the chapel before addressing parade participants on the outdoor sound stage every year.

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