ABC11 recognizes Disability Pride Month and its growing significance

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Saturday, July 23, 2022
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Disability Pride Month is growing more and more significant to people in the Triangle with disabilities.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Disability Pride Month is growing more and more significant to people in the Triangle with disabilities.

"Even though I have autism, I can still run fast, I can go down the ski slopes," Romas Gabbrielli said.

Gabbrielli has competed in the Special Olympics since 2008.

In 2014 in New Jersey he won gold in soccer and showed ABC11 all the medals he's earned over the years.

"People with disabilities are given a gift and so my gift is being good at different sports," Gabbrielli said. "Disability Pride Month is a great moment to shine and let the world know that 'Hey, we're here. We're human.'"

Kristine Hughes has been with Special Olympics even longer.

"It means a lot to finally be recognized, we've been through a lot throughout the centuries," said Hughes.

Hughes, who is now a full-time employee with Special Olympics North Carolina as the Athlete Leadership Manager, was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

"I was only told I had it," she said. "I try and tell people not to judge a book by its cover."

David Laxton, the director of communications for the Autism Society of North Carolina, said the month has helped with acceptance and understanding.

"Everyone brings a different skill set," he said. "You might just need different supports in place so you can be as successful as possible."

Laxton touted the Linc-IT program that started in 2018 that helps find internships for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The Governor also announced a pilot program that is launching this month to give career coaching to state employees with autism.

The Arc of the Triangle serves people with different disabilities like Down's Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.

Right now they have 30 students with intellectual disabilities in Wake and Durham Counties getting paid and interning at companies like SAS, Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

"I love that we're finally recognizing the pride part of disabilities," said Jennifer Pfaltzgraff, executive director. "We have disability history month, we have disability awareness month but pride gives it back to individuals who have disabilities."

The special month recognizes the past and how far athletes and others like Kristine and Romas have come.

"If you have a disability, whatever it is, whether it's physical or mental, don't let it stop you," Kristine said. "I have that title on me, the fetal alcohol syndrome but it doesn't stop me, it hasn't stopped me."

Pride Disability happens every July and commemorates the passing of the American Disabilities Act in 1990.