Traveling exhibit highlights struggle for disability rights
Minnesotans will have two chances to see the Road to Freedom Bus Tour this month. The traveling exhibit, a year-long, cross-country educational and promotional bus tour to inform and inspire America about the compelling history of disability rights, will stop first in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, August 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The bus will be parked between the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater at 704 South Second St., Minneapolis. The next day, the bus will travel to St. Peter, Minnesota. The exhibit will be on display from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Minnesota Square Park. A Remembering with Dignity dedication of 430 newly named grave markers at the St. Peter State Hospital Cemetery will follow from 2 to 3 p.m. All bus stops are free and open to the public.
“We are delighted to announce that the bus will stop here—one of 80 stops on its nationwide tour,” said Cindy Tarshish, ADA Minnesota. “The exhibit is an excellent reminder of the significant changes brought about by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, as well as an opportunity to strengthen the call for the most basic freedoms for people with disabilities: access to public buildings, and opportunities to live independently and work to support themselves and their families.”
The Road to Freedom bus tour features a multi-media display and presentation that guides viewers through the civil rights struggle for people with disabilities. Jim Ward, president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights, will be on hand to talk about the ADA, the challenges still faced by people with disabilities and the need to keep the promise of the ADA. In Minneapolis, Ward’s presentations are scheduled at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson will also read a proclamation declaring Aug. 17 as Americans with Disabilities Road to Freedom Day in Minneapolis. Minnesota State Representative Shelley Madore, DFL, District 37A, known for her leadership on disability issues, will also speak.
“We invite the public to drop by, especially the thousands of people who work nearby at downtown businesses,” Tarshish said about the Minneapolis stop. “The Road to Freedom tour is an important reminder of the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA didn’t solve all problems, as evidenced by rising unemployment rates of people with disabilities able and willing to work and the disproportionately high rate of poverty among people with disabilities. There is more work to be done.”
“The St. Peter stop will provide the opportunity for people to come to the St. Peter State Hospital Cemetery,” said Jim Fassett-Carmen of Remembering with Dignity (RWD). “When you see the ground covered with numbered graves, it makes you think—and sinks in. 1200 of the 1600 people buried in this cemetery now have names, due to the work of the Remembering With Dignity Project. Yet, thousands of state hospital residents in Minnesota, and in cemeteries littered across the America, remain buried anonymously, in numbered and unmarked graves.
I hope people take this opportunity to visit the cemetery. As we work to ensure the rights of and respect for people with disabilities today, we need to return dignity to these people who went before us.”
Event hosts for the Road to Freedom tour include: Access Press; ADA Minnesota; Advocating Change Together; Arc Greater Twin Cities; Courage Center; The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota; Metropolitan Center for Independent Living; Mill City Museum; Minnesota Department of Employee Relations; Minnesota Department of Human Services; Minnesota State Council on Disability; United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota; University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration; and VSA arts of Minnesota.
The Road to Freedom visit coincides with the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Conference, which will be at the Guthrie August 16-19, 2007. This annual conference is produced by the Accessibility Office of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is intended for people working in the arts to learn more about access as it relates to people with disabilities. Local sponsors include the Minnesota State Arts Board, VSA arts of Minnesota and the Guthrie Theater.