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People with Disabilities Gather to Celebrate Disability Community

posted Apr 25, 2017, 10:00 AM by Jessica Benham   [ updated Apr 25, 2017, 10:01 AM ]
Matt Berwick, Program Director of the Disabilities Resource Center at UMPC, is proud to be part of the disability community, whose members he calls “the coolest people on the planet.” For Pittsburghers with disabilities, disability community is a way of connecting with others who have similar life experiences. Alisa Grishman, leader of Access Mob Pittsburgh, adds, “I’ve met a lot of my friends through disability community.”

 Saturday night found many people with disabilities gathered at Nordy’s for an open mic and networking night hosted by the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA) and Students for Disability Advocacy (SDA). Jess Benham, Director of Public Policy at PCAA, described her vision for the occasion as “celebratory.” People with disabilities are not often invited to share their thoughts or ideas, even when decisions are being made that directly impact their lives. This event was an opportunity for people with disabilities to reclaim the microphone and celebrate their lived experiences.

The evening featured speakers with disabilities, including Dr. Bethany Ziss of the Children’s Institute who quipped, “I’m a disabled person and a doctor, and I believe the two are not mutually exclusive.” FISA Foundation sponsored ASL interpretation for the event. Between speakers, attendees mingled over chips and soda.

People with disabilities have many of the same goals and desires in life as everyone else and often rate their quality of life highly. They have friends and romantic partners, careers and hobbies. Brandon Daveler, President of SDA, believes communication and interaction are important “whether you have a disability or not.”

Yet for many of the attendees, this event was something quite special. “Tonight,” remarked Cori Frazer, PCAA’s executive director, “disabled voices were not only heard, but embraced.”