AUGUSTA — “It’s still us and them, but today is about us,” said Kim Moody on a sunny and warm afternoon at Mill Street Plaza during Disability Pride Maine.

And Moody was right — the day was about celebrating Disability Pride Month, as more than 100 people gathered outside for the event, traveling from as far as Massachusetts. Tables were set up with information and free goodies, while pizza, drinks and cake were given out to attendees.

“Disabilities are a part of the natural human experience, we are everywhere,” said Moody, the executive director of Disability Rights Maine.

Moody talked about how proud she is to be a disabled woman and while doing so, she introduced three speakers, each of whom had their own message to share about living with a disability.

Chrysanthemum Gates reminded everyone that a “disability can happen to anyone, at any time.”

Gates is a TikTok influencer from Maine who uses her social media account with over 400,000 followers to spread awareness and advocate about living with a disability. Her first couple of videos went viral in 2019 after she called out Hot Topic in the Bangor Mall for not being accessible for people using mobility aids.


Since then, she has become a brand ambassador for the power wheelchair manufacturer Quantum Rehab, showing people on social media how she is able to “live a normal life” thanks to her electric mobility aid that helps her do things such as raise to the level of the person she is talking with to look them in the eye — a factor she says many people forget is something that is taken for granted.

“I don’t want anyone to go through life alone because of their disability,” she said in her speech.

Joseph David Holmes and Elizabeth Bryant came from Bath and though they’ve attended an event similar to this one in the past, they were “happy” and “excited” to make it Friday afternoon. They got to the event at noon and stayed for the rest and enjoyed pizza before watching the speakers.

Sarah Trites, another speaker of the day, shared a poem she wrote about how Disability Pride Month should be just as celebrated as birthdays and other holidays.

Disability Pride Month is not nationally recognized, but some cities and states elect to have their own celebrations in July to honor the July 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Boston is believed to be the first city to have hosted such a celebration, the same year former President George H.W. Bush signed the landmark bill into law.

Darryl Shepherd Jr., who made the trip from Biddeford to speak at the event, talked about the world that could be possible if everyone were accommodated. He compared it to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” in which the character Geordi La Forge, who was born blind, uses a special visor to help him see so he can man the spaceship just as well as everyone else.


Shepherd Jr. said he was not nervous about talking in front of everyone because of how passionate he felt about his message.

“Because people need to hear it, a message that we don’t need correction and to be fixed to find a place in the world where we fit,” he said. Shepherd Jr. works as a project facilitator for Maine Inside Out, a transformative justice nonprofit.

Katrina Ringrose, the deputy director of Disability Rights Maine, said the organization is happy to “celebrate each other” again after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Only about 35 people attended the last event in 2019, before the pandemic hit, emphasizing how much of a success Friday’s event was.

“Disability Pride is about accepting and honoring every person’s uniqueness and just realizing it’s natural and a beautiful part of human diversity,” said Ringrose. “I think that’s what we hope to capture with this event — to honor everyone for who they are and to push away the stigma.”

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