Edward A. Ornelas for the Rivard Report
The overcast morning on Saturday was lit up with excitement as floats, dancers, pageant queens, and a marching band paraded through downtown streets to show support and awareness for people with disabilities.
The abilitySTRONG Parade is “an expression of the belief that disability is a natural part of human diversity and can be celebrated,” said Melanie Cawthon, executive director of DisabilitySA, an organization working to ensure those with disabilities are fully integrated into the community.
DisabilitySA, alongside the City of San Antonio’s Head Start Program and Disability Access Office, coordinated the parade to coincide with AccessAbility Fest, a multi-organization outreach effort providing resources and social opportunities to people of all abilities. This is the 12th annual AccessAbility Fest, and the parade will continue annually and coincide with this event, Cawthon said.
Among parade participants was Ms. Wheelchair Texas 2018, Angel Arredondo, who told the Rivard Report that she was participating in the parade in hopes of finding more people who want to participate in the statewide pageant. “I am here to have fun and to let people know about other social” and educational opportunities for people with disabilities, Arredondo said.
Joining Ms. Wheelchair Texas was Ms. Wheelchair America 2019, Karen Roy, who said the parade helps to show that those with different abilities can and should be invited to participate in “all of the fun life has to offer.”
Spectators lined the streets around Milam Park, waiting for the parade to make its way from the Cattleman Square lot across from the University of Texas at San Antonio downtown campus. Walking along the route with representatives of San Japan, a Japanese culture and anime convention, was Andy Short, who was joined by his mother and his sister, who has Down syndrome.
Short said that when he heard his organization was walking in the parade, he knew he needed to show up to represent support and “show positivity with and for people who have disabilities.”
“It is important for people to see that people with disabilities can do anything most other can do, and that they want to as well,” Short said.
Click through the gallery below to see more images from the parade.
Leading the abilitySTRONG parade and march was grand marshal Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who waved to spectators alongside his family as the Jefferson High School Marching Band followed close behind.
“San Antonio certainly knows how to throw a parade, but the most gratifying parades are ones that exude inclusiveness. [This event] is important because ensuring every San Antonian has the opportunity to fulfill their potential includes people with disabilities,” Nirenberg said.