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Start seeing people with disabilities, groups celebrating ADA say

The Salt Lake City Mayor's Office was among several organizations and groups to sponsor an event held in celebration of the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Monday.

The Salt Lake City Mayor's Office was among several organizations and groups to sponsor an event held in celebration of the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Monday. (DRAC livestream)

SALT LAKE CITY — Several Utah groups, leaders and organizations gathered Monday to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by calling on others to start seeing people with disabilities.

"We are never going to have full, equal access for people with disabilities until we start seeing people with disabilities. We start telling their stories. We start seeing there is strength and beauty that comes through being disabled," Disabled Rights Action Committee board chairwoman Psarah Johnson said.

"Start showing people with disabilities," she said, "and showing them for their strengths and their beauty, and not just as something to be pitied or accepted. We want to be seen as strong and as part of the community."

Monday's event celebrating Disability Pride Month featured visual and performing artists with disabilities.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall virtually voiced her commitment to the rights of accessibility and the ADA.

"We have a responsibility to cultivate a better understanding of this civil rights law and we need to do this together by uplifting voices within the disability experience, and by supporting the work of advocates in Salt Lake City. We know that equity, inclusion and the opportunity for every single resident needs to be a priority and a reality," Mendenhall said.

The event's theme, "Disability Pride: Art is for Every Body," demonstrated that commitment to uplifting voices within the disabled community.

One of the artists, Havoq Luscivia, echoed Johnson's sentiment before performing.

"I want people to start realistically and kindly telling disabled people — find what you can do, and then find how to do that safely and in line with what your body and brain wants to do, and then go do that," Luscivia told the audience. "Listen to our lived experiences and let us set our own expectations ourselves."

Multidisciplinary artist Lucien Bennett said the event allowed people to feel embraced by their community while increasing the visibility of issues disabled artists face.

"I'm proud to be disabled. In the same way that I'm proud to be queer and I'm proud to be like who I am because it is such an intrinsic part of who I am. I really can't erase it, it is part of my everyday experience. I actually really am excited to get to incorporate that into my performance aspect," Bennett said.

"But I feel like there's not as much space for disabled performers. I think it's really important to book disabled performers and make space for people that are not necessarily within what would be considered the norm."

Other acts were performed live or through video by local and national artists. Among those performances was a choreographed dance performed by ZCO/DanceProject, a physically integrated dance company.

The founder and artistic director of the company, Zazel-Chavah O'Garra, was the recipient of the VSA-John F. Kennedy- National Teaching Artist fellowship and was named the inaugural member of the White House Disability Liaison 2014.

In addition to performances, the celebration featured food, a drawing for gift cards, a visual art gallery with tactile art displays and a resource fair from various organizations that sponsored or participated in the event.

The hybrid and accessible event was sponsored by the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office, Disabled Rights Action Committee, National Federation of the Blind, Utah Transit Authority, Caption Call and SPIN scooters.

A livestream of the event and its performances can be found here.


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