Stupidity Rolls On
By Edward J. Heaton
Recently, the New Jersey Disability Pride Parade has made repeated requests for funding to support the third annual parade. Just what the !#$(@#$?! is “Disability Pride” and, more importantly, why should we be throwing a parade for it?
I have a problem with the concept of “Disability Pride” and having a parade for it. The problem I have with the concept is, perhaps, generational. When I was growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, there was no such thing as “Disability Pride”. What I and my compatriots growing up have pride in was achievement in spite of the disability. This may seem like I’m quibbling over semantics, but disability in and of itself was not something to have pride in.
The concept of “Disability Pride” entails that there is some commonality among the entire disability community. This is certainly not the case. In New Jersey alone, according to the Cornell University 2011 New Jersey Disability Status Report , there are approximately 877,000 persons with a disability in New Jersey. As those of us in the disability community and in the general population are aware, there are thousands of types of disabilities with differing effects on each person. Therefore, where is there a common denominator that denotes “Disability Pride”?
In the disability community itself, the only group that I will acknowledge as having a disability culture are those who are deaf. The reason they have this culture is because they share a common disability that makes it difficult to communicate with the rest of us. Because loss of hearing made communication difficult, sign language was developed, and eventually a whole deaf culture developed around the commonality of severe and profound hearing loss. I didn’t agree with this concept, either, until I worked with a man who was deaf. I once asked him if he would consider a cochlear implant so he could hear his children speak. His response was, “I can see them sign.” It was an “aha” moment. This person was a skilled lip reader who in casual conversations did not use an interpreter. Therefore, I did not realize how much of his cultural identity was built around this statement until I asked him about a cochlear implant.
In the disability community, there is no such thing as a coherent community because of the many types and degrees of disability. Therefore, without commonality, how can there be such a thing as “Disability Pride”?
The other problem I have with the Disability Pride Parade is the misallocation of resources used to produce it. For example, in its latest 990 form, the Alliance Center notes that the expenses for the Disability Pride Parade were $14,796. Total program expenses for the whole year were $370,620. This means that approximately 4% of its total expenses went toward a parade. Wouldn’t that $14,796 be better spent on programs that help people instead of a parade? If I were a funder of the Alliance Center, any future funding that I gave would specify that it must be used only towards programs that actually assist members of the CIL, and not be used in any way to support the parade.
The Alliance has a board member, Millie Gonzalez, who is currently living in an apartment in Perth Amboy due to the fact that her home in Union Beach was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. In the most recent edition of “People and Families” , a magazine published by the New Jersey Council of Developmental Disabilities, Millie described her struggle in rebuilding her house after Hurricane Sandy. She stated that most of the financial obligations of that rebuilding would fall on her. Personally, I would be the first person to donate $100 to a “Help Millie Get Home” fund, as opposed to a Disability Pride Parade that seems to have no long term purpose or goal.
The last question I have is simply this: Was it really necessary to have an indicted politician speak at the parade? Mayor Tony Mack of Trenton, under federal indictment, spoke at last year’s parade because it was held in Trenton. Don’t the people behind the parade realize that even though Mayor Mack’s administration helped them tremendously with the parade, by allowing him to speak at the parade, stripped them of whatever little credibility they had? Nothing says “New Jersey” like having an indicted politician speak at your parade.