Why I March: My Experience as a Disability Rights Advocate

Disability Advocate Gilbert Plaza with HeartShare Executive Director Linda Tempel on the steps of New York City Hall.
Disability Advocate Gilbert Plaza with HeartShare Executive Director Linda Tempel on the steps of New York City Hall.

I’ve been advocating for people with disabilities for over 30 years. When you’re advocating for other people, and for yourself, it’s such a good thing. It makes me happy.

I just want everyone to advocate for people with disabilities. To stand by our side. There’s so many things happening right now. No one knows where we’ll be in a couple of years. The agencies that help people with disabilities need more funding.

I live at a HeartShare program, the Giannattasio Residence in Brooklyn. I’ve been there for 16 years, but other agencies are slowing down and closing some of their programs.

The problem is not just discrimination against people with disabilities. Everything is getting so expensive now. There’s no funding. That means some people will be on the streets. We need programs. We need places to live. We need jobs. What good will we do spending the whole day at home?

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I pray that we can continue to live our lives and that the agencies helping us can survive. We have to see what the future looks like, and right now, it doesn’t look pretty.

We have to do something. We have to stand up for people with disabilities. That’s why I march in the Disability Pride Parade. This will be my fourth time marching.

The parade brings everyone together and each year it gets bigger. I wish it would air on TV so that everyone could see us. This parade not only gives us a strong voice, but also shows our strong spirit.

We can’t do this alone. I want everyone to fight for us, and the parade is a good step forward. We march to show everybody who we are and to prove what we can do. We walk together for disability rights, for human rights.

Come and join us!

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Gilbert Plaza is a disability rights advocate and has cerebral palsy. He participates in day habilitation and residential programs at HeartShare Human Services of New York, a non-profit supporting and empowering marginalized New Yorkers since 1914. In the past, Gilbert has participated in the NYC Disability Pride Parade, and will be marching again in this year’s parade on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

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