Eliza Riley - ADVOCATE

Uploaded by UNITYLab on 22.02.2011


Welcome, everyone, to the first annual West Coast Disability Pride Parade and Festival.

Today we're here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the
Americans with Disabilities Act.

We're so excited about the fact that we have it today and we're very proud.
This landmark civil rights legislation says
you can't discriminate against me because I have a disability.

Say it loud!
Disabled and proud!
Loud and proud means not being scared, not being shy, being who you are,
not like, kept inside a closet.
Disability pride is important because the more we can go out and we can say,
"I'm proud of my disability, my disability makes up who I am,"
the more we can educate others that this is not something to be ashamed of.

Eliza Riley, a disability rights advocate, leads a youth leadership program
at the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center.
What I'm hoping to pass on to my youth in the class is a sense of identity,
a sense of community, a sense of, "I can be as strong as anyone."
I want the students to realize that they're not alone,
they have people they can share their stories with.

Born with cerebral palsy,
Eliza embraced her disability as she grew up and became a leader at school.
She was active in student council, played basketball, and loved the outdoors.
But, as a young woman, Eliza had a transformative experience
when a stranger called her a cripple.
That moment caused me to take action because it was so startling.
All I could mutter was, "I'm not, I'm not, I'm not a cripple."
That word, like the word 'Handicapped,' like the word 'Special'--
if you say any of those words now in front of me,
I'll run you over.

The most important rights that I'm fighting for is with employment.
Making sure we have doors open.
That if a kid wants to be a mathematician,
no one's going to tell him, "You can't do that!"
Currently, only twenty percent of people with disabilities have jobs.
And most of these jobs are minimum wage.

The youth leadership program I have right now,
it's vitally important because we need to find our next great leaders.
We really want to show them that they have the power to decide where they want to go next.
Hey, hey, ho, ho, we are proud so let it show!
She's teaching me how to really be a leader because she is herself an awesome leader.
I've started to learn what our rights are
and how we can fight for them in work, school and different places in life.
No more cuts! No more cuts!

Advocate means to me having knowledge of rights.
It means being willing to go out and be a voice, a voice of change, a voice of reason.
Eliza's advocacy work is inspired by her hero, the late Ed Roberts,
who founded the disability rights movement while he was a student at UC Berkeley in the 1960s.
I remember hearing stories of the Rolling Quads.
He was the quote-unquote 'Super Crip.'
How great it must have been to be effecting that much change.
There's such a strong, strong power in numbers and a unity in those numbers.
If we can all come together on some of these issues,
everyone would see these people are real and they're present.
They're willing to get out there.

Eliza now encourages her students to get out there
and to combat stereotypes by using poetry to express their feelings.
I'm not one of the physically challenged.
I'm a black panther with green eyes and scars like a picket fence.
While Eliza's students move on to leadership roles,
she takes pride in the unity they created together.

I just wanted to cry and I was like this is so beautiful.
We are here! We are loud!
We're disabled and we're proud!
This is something that California needs so much to do,
we need so much to tell people we're here, we're strong, we're united
and you don't want to mess with us.
You really don't.