Several Hundred people braved very sunny skies and high temperatures to attend the annual “Disability Pride Day” at Capitol Park in Augusta on the afternoon of Friday, July 20th. The event was sponsored by Disability Rights Maine, a protection and advocacy center for individuals with disabilities. Disability Rights Maine is a member of the National Disability Rights Network, national collection of protection and advocacy centers.
Disability Pride Days have been happening for a few years, but this is the first time I was able to make it in person. Historically, there have been celebrations of the signing of The Americans with Disabilities Act (2005) that were also held at Capitol Park. Disability Pride Days differed in the scope of their event. It was a day of “positive thoughts.” At least one of the honorees got a little divisive, but I’d be surprised if that didn’t happen. He was being honored for being an disability rights activist, and it goes with the territory.
This Disability Pride Day featured the unveiling of three gorgeous paintings by Bill King, a woodworker and painter who has worked with Creative Work Systems. Disability Rights Maine commissioned the paintings in honor of Gil Broberg, Helen Bailey, and Kathy McInnis Misenor. These stunning pieces of art will continue to adorn the walls of Disability Rights Maine. One of the honorees said “the paintings belonged in the Maine State Museum,” and I can’t help but consider how marvelous it would be to have a museum installation of Maine’s Disability Rights History.
On a very personal level, I have remarkable memories of the three honorees:
Back in the eighties, when people primarily got their updates from network television news, Kathy McInnis was often featured presenting whatever disability rights stuff was occurring. My single mom and grandmother openly discussed the news with me, and I distinctly remember telling my mother that I wanted to do what Kathy McInnis did when I grew up. One of her programs listed her as an “Activist” for some form of the word “Disability.” I remember telling everyone I wanted to be a “Disability Activist” when I was older, because Kathy McInnis was so obviously awesome. Who doesn’t want to be that awesome when they grow up? I met her as an adult about a decade ago, and I tried really hard not to be the emotional guy gushing about how much I appreciate her. I remember it having been cool and drama-free.
For decades, Helen Bailey has been right next to me fighting for disability rights and against assisted suicide. Even after retirement, Helen returned to testify against a recent bill. Bailey served as General Counsel for Disability Rights Maine, and her legal victories and tireless dedication have benefitted untold numbers of Maine residents. Disability Rights Maine has an annual advocacy award named in her honor.
I first met Gil Broberg when I was finishing college and applying for work. A Southern Maine Insurance Company was considered one of the best companies to work for, and they were very good about recruiting people with disabilities. I spent an awful amount of time on my resume and submitted it to my campus career center. A few weeks later, Gil called, and after what I will admit was a “persistent” job searcher, I received a call for an interview (that lasted over eight hours), and I was somehow hired. While we worked together, Gil and I coordinated with Anna Kendrick’s mom to give a couple of panel discussions on disability to high school students. Gil has also served on numerous boards and advisory councils. He’s done more to progress the needs of all people with disabilities in Maine than I could possibly remember or list. I was delighted to see his reaction when the painting of him was unveiled.
Disability Pride Day events also included many disability providers discussing the services and products they have to support people with disabilities across the State of Maine. It was an excellent event that celebrated the diversity of the the Disability Community, the long term achievements that grassroots disability community, and had some delicious free pizza provided by Pat’s Pizza. What more could a person want!? Huge props to Disability Rights Maine for such a memorable event. I hope there are many more to come.
Kim Moody, Executive Director of Disability rights Maine in front of the Statehouse, at Capitol Park. Her left arm is amputated and she has long curly hair.
A canvas painting of the Statue of Liberty in a wheelchair.
Gil Broberg and Kathy McInnis-Misenor, along with her daughter, engrossed in conversation.
The Disability Right Maine staff behind the Disability Pride Day sign.
Helen Bailey, an older caucasian woman addresses the crowd when the painting of her is revealed.
Kathy McInnis-Misenor, with dyed magenta hair, smiles while attending Disability Pride Day.
The unveiling of the paintings of Gil Broberg, Kathy McInnis-Misenor, and Helen Bailey.
Gil Broberg has a smile of delight upon seeing the painting of himself for the first time.
Edited by Ivy Quigley.