Disability does not equal inability

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Colorado’s first annual Disability Pride Parade on Saturday Sept. 28, 2012 showcased the idea that our differences are what make us beautiful.

Commencing at noon, people from all walks of life gathered outside the Downtown Poudre River Public Library to celebrate people with and people without disabilities.

According to this grassroots festival, “Disability does not equal inability.” The movement aims to raise awareness of this way of thinking and to open people’s eyes to the spectrum of differences within the human race.

Ending at Old Fort Collins Heritage Park, concert and festivities ensued until 6:30 p.m. Entertainment included the bands “Lee Holiday and the Time off,” the Seers” and “the Stone People Drummers.” Keynote speaker Temple Grandin spoke at the event promoting community understanding and access.

“Different people have different kinds of skills. I get worried when people totally define themselves by their handicap,” she said during her speech.

Grandin was recently inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Her idea of success is about being able to make a difference and make a difference right now.

A professor of animal science for 22 years, Grandin has succeeded with autism. “It’s about showing what you can do. Autism is an important part of who I am. I think I’m doing pretty good for someone who they thought was mentally retarded,” she said.

“This event represents a platform for all to be seen, heard and involved with our community of choice — rather than a labeled category,” said Michael Marr, a senior social work major at CSU and grand marshal of the event. “Too often we are an afterthought, as if we don’t share the same feelings, desires, dreams, and goals as other people.”

People from Boulder, Denver, Grande Lake and Fort Collins came out to show their support. Many local businesses and students as well as the Rocky Mountain High School drumline walked in the parade.

Family members of disabled showed their excitement for Colorado’s inaugural Disability Pride Parade.

“It’s so exciting. Parents get to be together. We talk all the time on the internet but it’s great to be out with one another,” said Jan Wharton, a retired teacher from Grand Lake.

Her son has been diagnosed with FG Syndrome, a genetic mutation which she likes to call “the fun guy syndrome.”

One out of five people will experience disability in their lifetime, according to Marr.

“Disability crosses all races, ethnicities, cultures and populations,” Marr said. “Together, we can break down the structural, economical and social barriers we all experience in light of our disabilities — be it visible, invisible, physical, emotional or learning.”

The colorful parade stretched two blocks as lively participants biked, walked, rolled and danced down South College Avenue to Old Fort Collins Heritage Park to the beat of the Rocky Mountain High school drumline. Passing cars honked in support.

“People like to keep us hidden because it’s a scary thing; it’s uncomfortable. But we’re here, we’re loud and we’re proud,” said Kim Cara, a sophomore communications major.

Marr echoed Cara’s sentiment, and explained the festival’s importance.

“It’s not special treatment we want, but rather the same decent, fair and dignified treatment that all persons deserve. Not pity, but understanding. Not to be given a hand-out, but to be encouraged to use all our strengths, not a burden, but part of the human experience,” Marr said.

Collegian Writer Cassandra Whelihan can be reached at news@collegian.com.