Hundreds turned out for the second annual Montclair Disability Pride Parade and rally on Sunday, May 1.
“It was a day of pride, celebration, awareness and education for people with disabilities and allies,” organizer Alma Schneider said.
The parade met at Heningburg Field and ended in Rand Park, where the rally was held.
Twelve years ago, Schneider began opening her home up on Fridays to parents of children with disabilities, creating a support group called the Montclair Friday Group. The group now has 350 members.
Schneider said the idea of a parade came about in 2021 in response to “a perceived lack of acknowledgment and activity for Autism Awareness Month by parents of children with disabilities in the Montclair Friday Group.”
“During COVID, with so many extra challenges for children with disabilities, there was a desire to celebrate their children’s accomplishments. The parade was such a success that we decided to make it a yearly event,” she said.
Lucas Singer, 28, who attended the parade said: “I want to be heard and noticed by other people, like what happened at the Disability Pride Parade. I want all people with disabilities to be heard.”
Patrice Jetter, a former crossing guard and speaker at the rally, said she is proud of who she is. “Disability pride for me is self-explanatory …I have a disability and I’m proud of who I am,” she said. “I accomplished a lot of things when expectations for people like myself were very low. We may not run things yet but we should definitely run the world.”
The parade was also sponsored by the Montclair State University Disability Caucus and the township’s People With Disabilities Advisory Committee.
Dr. Priya Lalvani, along with a group of faculty, started Montclair State University Disability Caucus with a mission to “recognize that the marginalization and discrimination of disabled people is the result of negative attitudes in society as well as systematic and structural inequality.”
Lalvani said disability has been associated with shame for too long.
“People with disabilities continue to be stigmatized in society, and in schools, many students with disabilities are educated in segregated environments separately from their natural community of peers. These ways of thinking have gone unquestioned. Many people are unaware of the existence of a vibrant disability culture,” Lalvani said.