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Disability Pride Parade

Updated on November 2, 2011

Going to the “Disability Pride Parade” in a wheelchair on the subway.

As I prepare to leave the house, I retrieve my frozen bottle of water from the freezer and place it in the bottle holder in my manual wheelchair’s backpack. The frozen bottle of water will be partially melted and stay cold all day even in this 90 degree weather. I don’t use my wheelchair all the time, just for more than 600 feet of walking with my cane. In this case, I will be traveling six blocks (approx. 3,800 feet) to the Cumberland Street Station of the CTA, Chicago Transit Authority subway/”L” system. I also have both foot rests off my wheelchair in order to accomodate my monopod transportation. I also must not forget to wear a glove or I will certainly get nasty blisters on my left hand, the only hand I can use to propel myself. Since I am a Hemiplegic, a condition in which one-half of a patient's vertical body is paralyzed, my left hand and left leg/foot will do all the work. My right side is 75% paralyzed due to a stroke, CVA, Cerebral Vascular Attack. Because I have been working out, the six blocks is a piece of cake. However, the coming home trip is the killer, I will be exhausted. Luckily I can nap while riding the subway for 45 minutes each way. When I arrive at the Cumberland St. Station for my trip to the parade, I take the elevator to the bridge level. The bridge level is the indoor level that crosses over the west bound lanes of the Kennedy Expressway in a “floating tunnel” and reaches an atrium where one can purchase subway tickets from a transit vending machine. Because I have an ADA Paratransit RTA ID card, I can just add money to the card, then at the turn-style the card is swiped through like a credit card and money is deducted. ADA is the Americans Disability Act and RTA is the Chicagoland area six county Regional Transportation Authority. After retrieving my card, a transit employee approaches me and allows me to bypass the turn-style and opens a gate so I can proceed to yet another elevator. The transit employee radios the upcoming subway train conductor with my information, mainly my destination. Then we go down in the elevator to the platform level. When we reach that level, which is in the middle of the 8-lane expressway. The platform divides the 8 lanes into 4 and is sandwiched by train tracks. Because the train will be quite long, the transit employee and I must go to the furthest lengthwise end of the platform to be able to meet the train conductor who will be at the front of the train. There the transit employee unlocks a CTA equipment locker and wheels out a wheelchair ramp to be used to bridge the airspace and vertical space between the subway train and the platform. I wheel over the ramp and move to one of the two mandated wheelchair spaces that every CTA subway car has. The space has fold-up subway seats there but these can be folded up to accommodate wheelchairs. Any able bodied persons sitting in those fold-up seats must move by law and the train conductor is there to supervise. The train doors close, I lock my brakes and away we go.

The subway train in this location travels bisecting the expressway for about 6 miles or 4 more stops before the train begins to dip and enters the earth. Underground we stop at different stations then we rise again into the light and above ground level where we now become an “L”, Elevated train. We snake our way tightly between buildings where the train is sometimes ever so close to buildings that you can literally shake hands with people sitting in their apartments. We make more stops high up high, then we begin to dip again and ultimately go underground once again and we make yet more subway stops. Then finally after 45 minutes we reach my destination, Clark/Lake subway station under the modern State of Illinois building known as the James R. Thompson Center designed by architect Helmut Jahn. The train doors open and a new transit employee stationed at this stop who was also radioed from the conductor, lays down another wheelchair ramp for me to use and I proceed to take two separate elevators, then I’m at ground level in the Thompson building. After wheeling out on the street I travel one block to Daley Plaza where the Chicago famed Picasso Sculpture is parked in front of the Richard J. Daley Center building. Near by is also architect Ludwig Meis van der Rohe’s Federal Center Building and the Flamingo Sculpture by Alexander Calder. At the Picasso is where the “Disability Pride Parade” will end marching (rolling) and a rally, after parade party will commence. This will be my third Parade, we have had five altogether. The Illinois State Legislature has decreed a resolution that this Parade is to be a yearly celebration and to take place in Chicago. Disabled people from all over the world come for this event. Recently they’ve started a Disability Parade in Norway. Hopefully it will be worldwide.

The Disability Pride Parade in Chicago, Illinois, takes place, always,

In late July on or near the Saturday closest to the anniversary date of the signing into law, ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act- July 26. (1990).

History of the Parade

The Disability Pride Parade was the brainchild of Chicagoan Disability Rights Activist Sarah Triano. She was a recipient of the 2002 Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Award established to honor upcoming leaders in the disability rights movement. Sarah used her cash award as seed money toward the Inaugural Disability Pride Parade, which was held in Chicago in 2004. The Parade planning committee initially, hoped to have at least 500 participants. The parade attracted more than 1,500 people (now since doubled) with disabilities, plus their families, friends and allies. And it became clear that the Parade was going to be an annual event. Each year since, the Parade has grown enormously with participants coming from all over the U.S. and the world.

The Parade attracted sponsors, advertisers, city, state and Federal help. At the Chicago Picasso Statue in Daley Plaza where the Parade ends, the after-parade celebration, rally and party commences. Surrounding the Plaza, many booths and tents are set-up with the services, sponsors, food and products. On an outdoor stage, Disabled and able body speakers, singers, musicians, poets and dramatists all perform with a sign language interpreter. Throughout that weekend too there are also more similar events at the near by University of Illinois at Chicago campus. Here too there is art by the disabled in galleries, video and independent films by the disabled.

That week, the City of Chicago, Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities or MOPD, holds a city sponsored disability expo. This expo always is held in a convention hall on Navy Pier. The expo known as AccessChicago entertains disability equipment companies, services and city, state and Federal services, hospitals, employment services, legal rights, sports, entertainment, medical and recreational activities for the disabled. They also have bicycles made for the disabled, three-wheeled hand cycles and three-wheeled foot cycles. They were great fun! Wheelchair football and basketball games were on going in the massive convention center. The Olympics were represented at expo as well, Chicago is one of four applicant finalist cities for the 2016 Olympic games so naturally the Paralympics is a part.

The Disability Pride Parade core roots are from the many disability rights organizations, namely ADAPT. ADAPT is a national activities group representing many satellites in many U.S. locations. Chicago ADAPT’s slogan on their group banner is “Adapt or Perish”- Charles Darwin. As a disability rights activist organization, the “Pride” is not only on one day of the year, but living with a disability at middle age, some since birth and all degrees of severity, helps us adapt, in a able body world.

Mission and Objective

The overall mission of the Disability Pride Parade is:

To change the way people think about and define “disability”;

To break down and end the internalized shame among people with Disabilities; and

To promote the belief in society that Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which people living with Disabilities can take pride.

The specific objectives for the parade are:

To organize a fully inclusive, annual event that will celebrate and strengthen the pride, power, and unity of people with disabilities, our families, and allies;

To generate national visibility of the Disability community.

Chicago and Cook County 2000 census stats for Disability population:

Chicago population 3,000,000 and including 300,000 registered people with a disability.

Cook County population 2000 census 5,376,741 and including 973,558 people registered with a disability.

Disability Pride Parade- Chicago '07




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    • PaulieWalnuts profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Chicago

      I am glad you found my site too! Hope to see you at the Parade in Chicago. This summer it's on July 25, 2009.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am glad I found your site. I am here in California; online;, passing information and awareness for all of our people with disabilities. I call them Abled 2009. With the parts that we do have, I believe can be exercised, enhanced and educated so that we to can be the best we WANT to be. I enjoyed your blog. Hopefully one day I can make it to Chicago myself.


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