Martin Luther King Jr. once famously proclaimed: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” Though he was addressing a population of unjustly treated African Americans, it soon became evident that an ever-growing population of citizens with disabilities were subjected to this same degree of unfair punishment, underestimated and unprotected under the law. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, paving the way for monumental steps toward the full realization of Dr. King’s dream.
Dr. King’s message was perhaps best illustrated last Thursday afternoon in Boston’s historic City Hall Plaza. Thousands of exuberant spectators gathered to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the ADA. The ceremony kicked off with a parade through the plaza; later, attendees enjoyed a day of celebration, reflection, and education. In addition to music, free food, and perfect weather, opportunities for networking were abundant. Representatives from organizations throughout the state were on hand; in addition to providing service-related information and support, they did their part to spread the message that we all can succeed.
I had the opportunity to attend last Thursday’s event with a group of young people with disabilities. While chatting with fellow attendees and enjoying the festivities, I began to reflect upon the numerous steps the community has taken toward acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. This is particularly true here in Massachusetts – it’s no secret that Boston is a haven when it comes to supports that enable those with disabilities to be on an equal footing. This past Thursday’s events were more than just a casual stroll through City Hall Plaza and an afternoon in the park; rather, they provided a strong community of people with the opportunity to come together and celebrate each other’s unique strengths and traits. It was truly an honor to be interspersed among such a crowd of people with all abilities. Although there is still much work to be done to make our community truly free of stigma and unacceptance, the events this past Thursday were a true illustration of the sentiment that in life, there are no barriers to success.
Special thanks to Mark Hunt from Disability Images for the photos in this post.