Cunningham: Disability Pride Day on Saturday to promote understanding, mobilize support
As many of you know, my office is hosting a celebration of disability pride this Saturday. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be at the Carol West Center at Morris K. Udall Park.
Our Disability Pride Day is scheduled to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of People With a Disability on Dec. 3, which was first proclaimed in 1992. It was started to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities.
The event will feature music, comedy, dance and other entertainment provided by talented people with disabilities from our community. It will also feature information sessions, and an opportunity to try your hand out at some adaptive sports which are being run by the folks at Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports. There will also be a quiet room for people who may have sensory issues and would like to take a few minutes away from the activities to have some time to themselves.
My work as both a Tucson City Council member and an educator has opened my eyes to what people with disabilities have to deal with on a daily basis. I’d like to think that I’ve always been sensitive to such things, but working with people with disabilities has taught me a lot.
For example, Chris in my office is visually impaired. Accommodating him has been way more trouble than it really should be. For example, he has software that “reads” whatever is up on his screen for him. It turned out to be a problem putting it on a city computer. After a while, my staff and I were asking how we, as an employer, have accommodated city employees in the past that have had visual impairments. The process of implementing a reasonable accommodation can take far too long. That’s a problem that as an employer we need to address.
I’ve learned a lot about my own habits when I communicate. I’ve learned that I need to consider that gestures and facial expressions aren’t helpful when I am speaking with Chris and that I need to be more descriptive with my language.
Chris is an invaluable member of my staff, and has done an awful lot of work getting the city as both an employer and a public entity to consider the needs of the visually impaired and other people who have disabilities. I have him working on both transportation and transit issues; both of those areas can use his unique perspective. I have identified some areas that need improving which is something I will be looking to address in the near future.
Patrick is a longtime friend and a volunteer in my office. He’s needed a wheelchair to get around since a brain injury in 2015. He doesn’t do policy work the way Chris does, but he has nonetheless been beneficial and a great member of my team.
Since he uses both SunTran and SunVan, I count on him for information on how those services work for our neighbors with disabilities. I really value Patrick’s perspective as a wheelchair user and my staff and I have learned a lot from him about how to make sure that our work place can accommodate people with different abilities.
In my work as a teacher, I have recently been working more in exceptional education. It’s what used to be called “special ed.” Many of my students have cognitive or behavioral issues. It shouldn’t even need to be said but these students deserve the same dignity, respect and education that their classmates do. We as a society don’t always provide that opportunity, but I hope I’ve learned a bit about how to.
Saturday’s event will be a great thing for Tucson and it’s something that not a lot of cities are doing yet. I hope you all can make it out.
Paul Cunningham represents Ward 2 on the Tucson City Council.