Disability Pride PA highlights growing need for accessibility in Pittsburgh and beyond | Pittsburgh City Paper

Disability Pride PA highlights growing need for accessibility in Pittsburgh and beyond

click to enlarge Disability Pride PA highlights growing need for accessibility in Pittsburgh and beyond
Photo: Courtesy of Oakland For All
Ramp Crawl part of Disability Pride: Weekend Under the Tent
Disability Pride is gathering momentum statewide and coming to Oakland this weekend with a celebration at Schenley Plaza. The nonprofit Disability Pride PA has partnered with Oakland For All to host a two-day festival highlighting and celebrating folks throughout the region living with some form of disability. 

Taking place Fri., Aug. 25-Sat., Aug. 26 at Schenley Plaza, the Disability Pride: Weekend Under the Tent opens with a Ramp Crawl, an annual program by Oakland For All that invites the community to enjoy the neighborhood’s wheelchair-accessible food and beverage spots while raising awareness about the importance of accessibility.

The Saturday lineup includes a parade, a set by local comic Gab Bonesso, a sensory-friendly chill zone, and live music by Ryan Gilfillian, The Elemental, and Soul Raydio, as well as accessible games, speakers, food and drink vendors, and more.

All events are free and open to the public.
click to enlarge Disability Pride PA highlights growing need for accessibility in Pittsburgh and beyond
Photo: Courtesy of Community Living And Support Services
Disability Rights Pennsylvania, part of Disability Pride: Weekend Under the Tent
Vicki Landers, founder and executive director of Disability Pride PA, tells Pittsburgh City Paper that, by holding the celebration in Oakland, they hope to engage with both students and the larger Pittsburgh community returning for back-to-school. Last year, the organization hosted its first annual celebration and parade Downtown.

“This is an event where we highlight and celebrate the disability experience,” Landers says. “And this is sparking ideas like, what can we do?... [How] can we spark conversations going forward? [This] way it leans into this next year.”

The move to Oakland, where research universities like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh are located, offers a number of advantages, says Landers. Assistive technology labs will also be on-site for demonstrations, and speakers include Dr. Rory Cooper, a Pitt professor, bioengineer, and lab founder who works on increasing accessibility through assistive devices, including the development of a pneumatic wheelchair.

July marked Disability Pride Month, which initially began as a day of celebration in 1990 — the year that the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, establishing protections for disabled people against discrimination. Later that year, the first Disability Pride Day was held in Boston.

The first official Disability Pride Month took place in July 2015, which also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ADA. Since then, cities across the country have celebrated with parades and other festivities to promote inclusivity and accessibility. Pittsburgh is one of four Pennsylvania cities to celebrate Disability Pride this year.

In the city of Pittsburgh, officials announced in January of last year the development of a comprehensive plan to improve accessibility and better meet ADA requirements. Additionally, a study from Pitt, released in December 2022, argues that disability resources are needed more broadly as the population in Allegheny County ages. Based on census data, the study says that 74,000, or 33.1%, of Allegheny County’s population age 65 and over reported at least one form of disability, ranging from impaired vision and deafness to mobility issues.

This is in addition to a total of 486,622 people in the county who are 65 and under and also reported living with some sort of disability.

Landers emphasizes Disability Pride is a community-wide event for all, but adds that the decision to partner with Oakland For All represents a broader effort to address the needs of disabled Pittsburghers specifically.

"I always tell people, I know what Philly wants, what we want it to look like. But you're from Pittsburgh," Landers says. "What should it look like in Pittsburgh? And that's what it should look like."
Disability Pride: Weekend under the Tent. Fri., Aug. 25-Sat., Aug. 26. Schenley Plaza. 4100 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. Registration required for Ramp Crawl. disabilitypridepa.org/dppittsburgh

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