News & Opinion

National Caravan for Disability Freedom and Justice Stops in Charlotte

Advocates highlight Olmstead anniversary, push for full inclusion

Advocates and allies for disability rights gather at Camp North End on Thursday
Advocates and allies for disability rights gather during a stop of the the National Caravan for Disability Freedom and Justice at Camp North End on Thursday. (Photo by Annie Keough)

More than 50 people gathered despite the rain outside of The Nest, North End Community Coalition’s space in Camp North End, to welcome the National Caravan for Disability Freedom and Justice (NCDFJ) on Thursday morning.

Disability Rights NC and other cross-disability allies raised tents for local vendors and organizations to spread resources and awareness of the current state and federal issues affecting people with disabilities.

The NCDFJ, a collective of people with disabilities and their allies, has been driving across the US since April to illustrate how far disabled people have come in the fight for inclusion and freedom and how much more must change, Disability Rights NC said in a release.

The caravan’s last North Carolina stop in Charlotte after Raleigh and Durham celebrated the 25th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which gave disabled people the right to choose to stay in their community rather than being forced into institutions.

“The concept of self-determination, that all people, including people with disabilities, have the right to pave their own path with access to assistance if and when needed is the backbone of the Olmstead act,” said Judith Brown, founder and executive director of Project 70Forward, a nonprofit advocacy and activism organization supporting Charlotte’s disabled community.

Local activists, poets and organizations shared their stories on the importance of self-determination and encouraged people with disabilities to continue fighting for their rights.

“There is more work to be done to ensure that people with disabilities can make our own choices and live in our communities,” one speaker said.

Organizations present at Thursday’s event included Project 70Forward, NC Statewide Independent Living Council, Disability Rights & Resources, Access CLT, Faith CME Church, NC Council on Development Disabilities, Grupo De Apoyo Poder Y Esperanza, NC Department of Health and Human Services, Assistiv Labs, Making Accessibility Work, Sustain Charlotte, Charlotte Regional Transportation Coalition, and the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center.

Rev Up Voting Campaign members also helped build the power of the disability vote by checking attendees’ voter registration.

“Educate yourself and stand up for yourself and your families, vote in every election you can, speak to elected officials, report that discrimination,” Brown said. “I ask you, no, I beg you to celebrate Olmstead by fighting with me and for the rights of others.”

The NCDFJ will continue its caravan tour through the Midwest and South, concluding with a stop in New York in October.

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