By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Disability advocates and agency officials gathered in Union Square to celebrate the fourth Disability Pride Parade on Sunday afternoon. The parade traversed down Broadway from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park, where a festival was held in the afternoon.
City agencies such as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Office of Emergency Management and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and local hospitals such as NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation and Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center had representatives along the route.
Nonprofits such as HeartShare Human Services and Gateway, organizations that works with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Pathways, a school on the Upper East Side for impaired children, Achilles International, a nonprofit that provides assistance to athletes with disabilities, and others marched as well, with kids and other participants dressing up in costumes for the parade’s “creativity” theme. Representatives from the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s Challenger Division and Stuy Town’s Good Neighbor initiative, including ST/PCV general manager Rick Hayduk, marched towards the end of the parade.
There were also representatives from the MTA marching on Broadway for the occasion, including Andy Byford, president of the New York City Transit Authority, and accessibility in the subway was a popular topic for speakers at the festival following the parade.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer underscored the importance of installing elevators at stations throughout the city. “We’re not there yet,” Brewer admitted. “Only 117 out of 417 stations are fully accessible, but we want to thank Andy Byford and the Department of Transportation for working with us to make the city more accessible for everyone.”
Byford himself emphasized at the festival that the MTA is committed to making stations accessible and noted that the agency is planning, within the next six months, to explore how expensive an undertaking it would be. Byford also noted that the MTA currently has a plan to equip 150 more stations with elevators within the next five years and the agency has created a new position to address accessibility in the system.
“Alex (Elegudin) is, for the first time, a fully paid member of my team and he is the accessibility adviser for transit,” Byford said. “That is a brand new role that reports to me and highlights our commitment to accessibility.”
The parade was created by pianist Mike LeDonne, who founded the nonprofit Disability Pride NYC after his daughter was born with a rare syndrome and he began to see misperceptions surrounding people with disabilities. The first parade was held on July 12, 2015, which was also the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.