Watch the Video: NYC Disability Pride Parade 2017

The half-mile stretch between Union Square and Madison Square Park is usually packed with tourists, business professionals, street performers, and all of the other characters that make summertime in New York City so unique. But for a few hours on Sunday, July 9, it was filled with passionate advocates, poets, athletes, artists, and more as the Third Annual New York City Disability Pride Parade brought together thousands to march up Broadway in support of inclusion, awareness, and improving and protecting services for people with disabilities.

Parade marchers from AHRC NYC's Employment and Business Services

Parade marchers from AHRC NYC’s Employment and Business Services

Hundreds of people from AHRC New York City walked in the parade, all clad in blue shirts with a design on the front by artist Kelly Torres. The 2017 edition of the parade was the agency’s biggest show to date, according to Carole GothelfDirectorIndividualized Supports, who has attended all three parades held so far. Darinka VlahekDirector of Curriculum and Community Supports, Day Services, and Jonathan EpsteinTransition Developer, took care of logistics and organization on AHRC NYC’s end for the parade with assistance from several volunteers.

Disability Pride from Park to Park

Marchers first gathered at the East 17th Street entrance to Union Square, right by Barnes and Noble. Everybody received a T-shirt and a bottle of water, with free refilling stations available along the parade route. Many came along with friends, peers, and staff from AHRC NYC programs, others joined with their families, and some participated independently.

Melisa Mark Viverito, Speaker for the New York City Council

Melisa Mark Viverito, Speaker for the New York City Council

Beginning at around 11 a.m., elected officials and other advocates spoke at a stage near the start of the parade. Among those who spoke were Victor CaliseCommissionerMayor’s Office for People with DisabilitiesMelisa Mark-ViveritoSpeaker for the New York City Council; Assemblyman, David WeprinGeorgi PanayotovPermanent Representative to the United Nations from Bulgaria and President of the UN Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and Grand Marshal Micah Fowler, who stars on the ABC sitcom Speechless.

Marchers reaching Madison Square Park

Marchers reaching Madison Square Park

Self-advocates led chants on the park-to-park promenade, including “Marching for a Common Cause” and the call-and-response style “Who are we? Self-advocates! What do we have? Power!” AHRC NYC Board Members who marched included Toni AgovinoGermaine Laviscount ScottNilsa Santiago, and Tina VealeFifth Vice President. After the march up Broadway, more festivities took place in and around Madison Square Park. Service providers, vendors, and city agencies all had tents set up free many giveaways and information available.

ArTech at AHRC NYC’s Howie Stone Day Services had a table inside the park where visitors could create personalized paper hearts beginning with the message “I Am Proud…” ArTech artists also helped to create many of the signs that were carried at the parade, with the assistance of Ben GranoffArt Consultant. Artists included Jorge Diego FrancicaRosa Gonzalez-RodriguezMahiuddin AhmedChristian Forbes, and Orlando Cantor.

Marchers in Their Own Words

I’m here for a personal reason, too. I have hearing loss and my brother has a disability. We are one community and coming out here today is a reminder of that.” Cynthia CacaresCommunity Support Professional, Cyril Weinberg Day Services.

Parade marchers from Employment and Business Services, Brooklyn

Parade marchers from Employment and Business Services, Brooklyn

I represent AHRC because they are like family to me. I’ve been a part of this agency for seven years. I’m a great leader for this marching parade.” Jayson VallesDay Habilitation Without Walls and Camping and Recreational Services’ Super Saturdays program. “It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not. You can do anything you put your mind to. People don’t always understand that.” Lisa JostStephen B. Siegel Day Services.

I wanted to show my support for people with developmental disabilities so they get what they want and so they can become more independent. It means to be together, to speak up for human rights, and let people be who they are.” Comfort Madison, Bush Terminal Day Habilitation.