On Saturday, October 13, 2012, an eclectic group of eager listeners and soon-to-be marchers gathered on the South Lawn of Queen’s Park. By noon, people from ages 2 to 82, along with their loved ones, showed up and showed off their support—with written banners, rainbow flags, and personalized slogans and stories, ready and willing to participate in this demonstration.
The previous march in 2011 from City Hall to the “Occupy Toronto” site proved to be an effective stage to bring our moving message of disability oppression and accessibility rights. Afterwards, a tireless group of grassroots activists started working with other like-minded individuals in this year’s march, and our Second Annual “Disability Pride” March came a few months later with the same passion, determination, and commitment.
Before the march some sipped hot coffee; others greeted long time friends and huddled to keep warm while listening to the speakers from the mad movement, workers movement and disability movement. They shared stories of past struggles; continued discrimination at work and from the government; and messages of unity with allies from across the movements.
Once we started moving, a loud voice urged the crowd to “Stand Up!” for our rights and “Fight Back!” the systemic abuse that all three levels of government have imposed upon us by way of cuts, the austerity agenda, and the lack of a fair long-term plan to address much needed accessibility measures.
We often hear that 60 per cent of communication is through body language. In that case, we were not only sending a message, but we became the message:
“We are here! We are disabled people and we are proud! Look at us! Talk about us! Ask us!”
While marching a few of us on wheelchairs chanted our own, and more realistic, version: “Sit Down and fight back!”
Approximately fifty people with visible and invisible disabilities along with friends, family members, and allies, came from different areas of the GTA, braving the cold and the rain, to be present and raise their voices against oppression; and to carve out a space in the social dialogue for justice and rights. We marched because we need everyone to include accessibility issues in their conversations at work, at home, at school. We need this conversations to be daily and often. The more we talk about accessibility the more obvious it will be to others that people with disabilities are not often included and continuously discriminated and segregated from participation.