Silver Chips Online

Walk for disabled people in the workforce held in Takoma Park

100 people gather to support awareness of disabled workers

By Meaghan Mallari, Online Managing Editor
October 25, 2005
A walk to support the awareness of disabled people in the workforce was held on Oct. 23 in Sligo Creek Park in Takoma Park. The event was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and featured a speech by Billy Wright, the organizer of the event.

Creating Opportunities by Recognizing Abilities Association (CORA) sponsored the event and walk. The event also featured a speech made by CORA CEO Ilene Morris Sambur.

Jesse Parker, the president of the Spinal Cord Association, and Angel Alvarez, National Spokesperson for REALifelines, were among others who made speeches before the walk began. The speeches were supplemented by lively music, provided by "Hilton, Selton & Manna," a local D.C. band. The band played gospel, jazz and hip-hop music.

The seventh annual, mile-long walk started at the corner of Maple Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway. The walk then continued along the parkway to the gate at Piney Branch Rd. where it intersects the parkway. The walk ended back at Maple Ave.

Wright, who says he first organized the walk because of misinformation regarding disabled people in the workforce, is a former marine who fought in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. After he returned to the United States, a car accident left Wright confined to a wheelchair.

Wright says that his son, Justin, felt embarrassed that his father had to use a wheelchair to get around. "As much as he loved me, he was ashamed to have me come around," Wright said.

So Wright began to travel to schools and spoke to students about his disability. Wright's speeches let the students realize that he was "just a regular guy" and relieved his son's embarrassment.

Wright currently works with organizations, such as CORA, which help injured veterans re-adjust to civilian life. The organizations he works with help men find jobs, write résumés and return to college.

Dan Newsome, one of the coordinators of the event, emphasized the importance of the walk. "[A] large part is breaking down barriers and prejudices against disabled people," Newsome said.

The walk participants ranged from children to older adults; however, Newsome stressed that one of the goals is to use this walk to appeal to teen populations. Newsome said that he and the other organizers of the walk have talked about going to high schools, recruiting teens to join the walk and teaching others about the unfair treatment of disabled people in the workforce.

One participant, Amber Smith, 16, of Patuxent High School, attends church with Wright. Smith said that the walk is important because "it shows that people, even though they have disabilities, they're just the same as we are."

For more information about CORA, call 800-571-2397 or mail them at 2401 Merry Chase Lane, Virginia, 20115

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/5790