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‘Everybody has their superpower’: Calgary celebrates people with disabilities with parade down Stephen Avenue

People paraded down Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to celebrate Disability Pride.
People paraded down Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to celebrate Disability Pride. Michael King/Global News

Hundreds marched down Stephen Avenue to celebrate Calgary’s disabled community on Sunday.

Disability Pride aims to increase the visibility of differently abled people and to encourage open conversations about how Calgary can become more inclusive, according to organizers.

People paraded down Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to celebrate Disability Pride.
People paraded down Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to celebrate Disability Pride. Michael King/Global News

Kiran Dhaliwal attended the parade, hoping that it will inspire awareness in the community.

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“Events like this have made me aware of invisible disabilities and how we can support those individuals,” she said.

Dhaliwal is quadriplegic — “there’s no hiding that,” she said.

“I always tell people that everybody has their superpower,” she said.

“I’m proud because I can show people what my superpower is and I believe that everyone regardless of age, sex, disability, whatever — we all have something that’s unique to ourselves that makes us special.”

Dhaliwal has been working for 22 years, advocating for work environments that reflect the overall population.

If one in five Canadians have a disability — according to 2017 Statistics Canada data — the workplace should reflect that, Dhaliwal said.

“When I entered the workforce, I was hired because I was a female, because I was a visible minority and I had a disability,” she said, adding that her boss was part of an employment equity program. “So I was like a three-in-one.”

Now, she is a contractor in the oil services industry.

“They don’t look at my disability at all,” Dhaliwal said. “They treat me like an equal and I feel like we are making progress, we are headed in the right direction. There’s still a lot that we can do, but we’re making improvements.”

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People paraded down Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to celebrate Disability Pride.
People paraded down Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to celebrate Disability Pride. Michael King/Global News

The Disability Pride Alberta Foundation is aware that the event’s title draws connections to LGBTQ Pride, but they are not affiliated.

“Often, the words ‘disability’ and ‘pride’ aren’t always seen together, so there’s that misunderstanding. It’s also June, so it’s Pride month, there’s that misunderstanding,” said foundation director Andrea van Vugt.

“But we’re OK to be associated with LGBT. That community has been fantastic at building optimism and change and taking civil action. What we can do is look at the LGBT community and say, ‘We have pride too. We’re proud. And join us.’ Anyone can join us.”