On Friday, July 19th, Disability Rights Maine hosted its 3rd Annual Disability Pride Maine event. The event brought together more than 150 people with disabilities and supporters of people with disabilities at Mill Park in Augusta.
As DRM’s Executive Director, Kim Moody, expressed in an interview with a local news station, we at DRM “are often in the position of fighting for the rights of people with disabilities and advocating for people at the legislature and opening cases to help people who have been discriminated against,” and Disability Pride Day “is a break from all of that for all the lawyers and advocates to join with people with disabilities to celebrate.”
Activities like button-making and face painting (by DRM’s very own Michelle Ames!) helped to foster the event’s celebratory and uplifting mood. The highlight of the celebration, though, was remarks by self-advocates in the community, including Kile Pelletier and Abbott Philson. Kile Pelletier is the Program Associate for the advocacy group Speaking Up For Us (SUFU). Kile spoke of the desire of people with disabilities to be a part of the community, a sentiment that was echoed by his colleague, Abbott Philson. Abbott, the Vice Chair of SUFU, described Disability Pride Day as an opportunity for “connecting with people inside our own community” and a chance “to be integrated and welcomed into our own communities.”
Next were remarks from Cathy Bustin, who proudly shared that she is an ex mental patient. She reflected on and celebrated her own journey in coming to accept and be proud of her disability, and called upon others to do the same. Cathy works as the ADA Coordinator in the Office of the Commissioner of DHHS.
Attendees also had the opportunity to meet representatives from various local advocacy groups, who were set up at tables along the outer edge of the pavilion at Mill Park. Groups in attendance included Alpha One, Pine Tree Society, Maine Parent Federation, the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council, and DRM’s Deaf Services Equipment Program, represented by Debra Bare-Rogers and Lisa Penney. The presence of various formal advocacy groups contributed to the event’s mission of bringing various segments of the disability community together.
DRM is honored to get to work as a part of such a powerful, engaged community of individuals and organizations, and is thankful for opportunities such as this one to see the whole community unite as one to celebrate the progress that the disability rights movement has made, and to look forward to the work that remains to be done.
Next year, the fourth annual Disability Pride Maine event will serve as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We hope to see you there!