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Disability Rights March and Rally: Transcript of Speeches

From Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Advocates

8/8/2017 10:00:00 AM

Jessalyn Akerman-Frank is signing her speech in front of the audience in the Capitol Rotunda. Marie Koehler, from Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division, is holding her speech and standing next to her. Monique Hammond is standing in front of the audience inside the Capitol Rotunda. In the background, Senator Fuong Hawj is watching her present. Jamie Taylor is standing onstage during her speech. Behind her is an interpreter, who is communcating the audience's responses to her (i.e. laughter, applause) through ProTactile communication.

On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, there was a large Disability Rights March and Rally in celebration of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This event was organized by representatives of the ADA Minnesota, Minnesota State Council on Disability, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division, Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, MNDOT, DEED, VSA Minnesota, and more. 

There were many speakers during the rally, including three speakers who represent various sectors of the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing community. MNCDHH obtained permission to share the speeches and pictures of the three: Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Monique Hammond, and Jamie Taylor. Enjoy!

Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Deaf Activist

Thank you for inviting me to present today. I am proud to be here as a Leader in the Deaf community, the LGBTQI community, an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, an advocate for deaf refugees, immigrant rights, and as an advocate and believer in the power of civic engagement.

I have spent my career working on equity for people who have been marginalized, working to make the systems more accessible, and encouraging people to advocate for themselves and as a community. I see and have experienced the added discrimination that occurs with disability and intersectionality of race and gender. I can’t imagine my life or the lives of my family, friends, and community without the protections that the ADA has provided.

The ADA’s requirement of the right to effective communication is a game changer. It doesn’t happen automatically. At times, it is exasperating. But we keep gaining more and more ground. Twenty-seven years later we are much better off.

The Minneapolis St. Paul Airport is one of the most accessible airports for deaf and hard of hearing travelers in the country because of the efforts of local advocates. We have accessible e-government services in Minnesota and captioned videos, but we still have far to go.

We still advocate for equal access to events, government services, public events, jobs, health care, and explain again, and again, that it’s our right. Every year, lawsuits are filed in the state against health care providers for failing to provide access to interpreters for medical appointments. The wonderful advocacy group HEARD is providing leadership and advocacy in Minnesota to make sure deaf prisoners have access to phones and access to the same services as other prisoners and prisons would have.

Today, we stand strong together, different disabilities, abilities, different genders (we stand with our trans community today, we are here for you), and race. We stand with allies from many communities, celebrating those who fought for our rights as we vow to continue to fight together for equality united in our varying faiths, hope, and love.

Monique Hammond, Hard of Hearing Activist

Good afternoon. I am Monique Hammond. I come to you from the Twin Cities’ Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America, fondly known as HLAA TC, where I currently serve as BOARD MEMBER.

Hearing loss is a Communication disorder. It is silent and invisible. And although many people STILL do not believe it, Hearing Loss is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act—and what a difference that has made in the lives of so many over the years.

We do know that there is still plenty of stigma attached to Hearing Loss, but thanks to the ADA it can no longer be ignored.

And why is that important?

Like all people with disabilities, those with hearing loss also need Accommodation and Access. In our world, that means ACCESS TO COMMUNICATION through various technologies and ASL interpretation.

We too want to take charge of our lives: socially, professionally and education-wise.

And the ADA gives us a framework for doing just that —because it RECOGNIZES hearing loss and because it PROTECTS our civil rights as we advocate for ourselves and fight for the COMMUNICATION ACCESS that we need and rightfully deserve.

So yes, today, is a day of celebration. But it is also a day of Thanks as we remember those who went before us, and who made it possible for us to be here. And so, from all of us at HLAA TC, Happy Anniversary, ADA, and now onward to the next 27 successful years!

Jamie Taylor, DeafBlind Activist

Special note: Jamie had to share her speech from memory. As a result, this transcript is close to what she said but not exact.

My name is Jamie Taylor. I wouldn’t be here today without the ADA!

The ADA helps points me in the right direction of where I want to go.

On the corner of University Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard is a tactile arrow. I pressed it and it vibrated to let me know the walk sign was on. I looked both ways and crossed successfully with my dog guide.

Whether it is braille signage, vibrating pedestrian signals, service animal access or tactile sign language interpreters…the list goes on. The ADA helps me, and you and the rest of the world interact on a more equal basis. Whether I visit Ada, Minnesota or tourist-rich Washington D.C., I know that the ADA will play a role.

Thank you fellow supporters and advocates. America, the world, would be a very different place if the ADA wasn’t here. Today is a day of celebration and renewal. We must never lose sight of where we want to go. I told my friends off and on the internet why I am celebrating!

Have you?

I was so very young at the time but I remember there were a lot of stairs! Today, there are still stairs to climb but this time around, there are elevators and ramps too!

Thank you!


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