July is Disability Pride Month, and the Disabled Rights Action Committee in Salt Lake City is celebrating with a hybrid virtual and in-person arts event.
The Disabled Rights Action Committee was founded in 1990 by activist Barbara Toomer with a mission to demand accessible transportation in Utah.
“She used to say that it's not the people that are disabled, it's the rights that are disabled," said Psarah Johnson, the board chair for the Disabled Rights Action Committee. "So the fact that we have a society that isn't accessible, that's the problem.”
Johnson said that it’s thanks to the committee that Utah has one of the most accessible public transit systems in the country. Early members took direct action by parking their wheelchairs on the TRAX lines and having “bus crawl ons.”
“They would show up in their wheelchairs at a bus stop," Johnson said. "The bus would open their door, and they would throw themselves out of their wheelchairs and literally climb on the bus. And that brought awareness to how ridiculous it was that we couldn't access buses.”
DRAC hosts a yearly event celebrating the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This year’s event celebrates 31 years since its passage.
“The idea is just to bring some awareness and some visibility to disability and show that it's not just the negative stigma we all associate,” Johnson said.
The theme for the event this year is Disability Pride: Art is for Every Body. There will be disabled performers and visual artists, including tactile art that visually impaired people can interact with.
“For a lot of us, art is our therapy," Johnson said. "Art is the way that we express ourselves. Art is the way that we tell our stories, and empower ourselves, when you aren't allowed to have a voice, when media refuses to tell your stories.”
Last year, the event was completely virtual. This year’s event will be hybrid, with both in-person and virtual performances.
The event will take place on July 25 at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. More information can be found at disabledrightsutah.org.