Chicagoans celebrate diversity at Disability Pride Parade: ‘It’s a healing event’

The Disability Pride Parade, which took on a virtual format for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was back in person Saturday morning.

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A parade goer wearing a butterfly costume laughs while marching in the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

A parade goer wearing a butterfly costume laughs while marching in the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

It’s been a year since Sofia Sarabia experienced a stroke that left her with physical and verbal challenges.

It was “unexpected and unexplained,” said her wife, Alicia Vega. “Before that, she was perfectly healthy. So this year, we’ve been learning how to navigate the world.”

On Saturday, Sarabia, who had a transgender pride flag draped over her wheelchair, and Vega, who was wearing a rainbow flag like a cape, marched in the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade for the first time.

Sarabia, who writes on a pad of paper to help her communicate, wrote the word,“Enjoy” to describe her experience marching at the parade.

“I know she really wanted to be here because she has no shame in her physical and verbal challenges, and she wanted to celebrate life,” Vega added.

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Alicia Vega, left, bends to hug Sofia Sarabia, right, as they march in the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. Vega and Sarabia, who are married, are learning how to navigate the world after Sarabia experienced a stroke last year, Vega said. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Disability Pride Parade, which took on a virtual format for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was back in person Saturday morning. The parade drew several hundred people who marched from South Plymouth Court and West Van Buren Street to Daley Plaza in the Loop.

“With the past couple years of COVID-19 being so rough for everyone, it’s nice to have this parade for people with disabilities so we can all support each other, so we can all encourage each other to keep on going with the ongoing challenges that we have in our lives,” said Alec Cabacungan, the grand marshal for the parade and the patient ambassador for Shriners Children’s Chicago.

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Alec Cabacungan, the grand marshal for the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade and the patient ambassador for Shriners Children’s Chicago, waves as he rides a convertible in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“[The Disability Pride Parade is] for people who may not have that community in their neighborhood, in their lives. It’s an opportunity for them to meet other people with disabilities and really have a sense of belonging,” Cabacungan said.

As parade goers marched, Rahnee Patrick cheered and filmed near the sidewalk.

“It’s a healing event, in terms of we’re not getting cured of our disabilities,” Patrick said. “We’re actually celebrating them and that they’re an important part of our, you know, human diversity.”

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Rahnee Patrick cheers for parade goers during the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.” | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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Wilbur Pugh who is marching with Envision Unlimited, dances during the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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Parade goers hold a sign that reads, “This is disabled joy” while marching in the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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Parade goers hold hands while marching in the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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A parade goer holds a fan that reads, “I’m a fan of disability rights” during the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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A parade goer rides in front of Medinah Shriners who are riding miniature cars during the 19th annual Disability Pride Parade in the Loop, Saturday morning, July 22, 2022. This year’s parade, which is making its first in-person comeback since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is themed “back and stronger than ever.”

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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