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Celebrating Italian American Heritage and Culture Month

Published by Kassi Soulard on

This is a special post written by Charles Warren, Curriculum Developer at Triangle. Charlie is also a member of Triangle’s Racial Equity Committee. As part of our commitment to the work of our Racial Equity Committee, we will be sharing more information with you on subjects related to racial equity and disability justice. This post continues our series dedicated to calling attention to the contributions of people with disabilities to American history.

Did you know that October is Italian American Heritage and Culture Month? This week, we are highlighting Italian Americans who are focused on increasing awareness and empowerment for Italian Americans with disabilities.

Nadina LaSpina

Nadina LaSpina speaks at a microphone. She is smiling, has curly gray hair, and is wearing a black winter coat.

Nadine LaSpina is a groundbreaking Italian American disability activist who has fought for the rights of people with disabilities throughout her life. She was born in Sicily and moved to the US when she was 13. A longtime activist, LaSpina is known for her work with Disabled in Action, a civil rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination against people with disabilities, and ADAPT, a national grassroots community that organizes direction action by disability rights activists. She is the author of the book Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride.

LaSpina, a professor of Italian at New York University, The New School, and Fordham University, is a pioneer in the field of disability studies. LaSpina participated in the fight for the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. She mobilized for public transportation access and disabled parking in New York City, spoke at the 2018 Women’s March, and was the Grand Marshall of the 2019 Disability Pride Parade. Her articles, essays, and stories have appeared in AbleNews, Ragged Edge, New Politics, And Then, and Bookwoman.

Marca Bristo

Marca Bristo is speaking into a microphone. She is in a wheelchair, holding a button that says ADA. She has long brown hair and glasses.

Marca Bristo was a key player in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Bristo’s work reshaping policies for people with disabilities in Chicago became the basis for national and international legislation. She founded Access Living in Chicago, a nonprofit that promotes independent living for people with disabilities.

Bristo began her activism work in the 1970s, when she joined the Independent Living Movement. The Independent Living Movement was a grassroots movement that advocated for the rights of people with disabilities to live independently in the community.

In 1980, Bristo founded Access Living, a disability rights organization headquartered in Chicago. Access Living has been at the forefront of the fight for disability rights for over 40 years.

Bristo was a leading advocate for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA is a landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

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