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Members of disability community show inspiration and pride

Emily Rowley.png
Posted at 5:42 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 16:50:59-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — People with disabilities are the largest and most diverse minority group out there, so this July, in honor of Disability Pride Month, Visit Tampa Bay put together a team of influencers from across the disabled community to raise awareness for all they can do.

Chelsea Bear and Emily Rowley were born with their disabilities. Bear lives with cerebral palsy, and Rowley has two underdeveloped arms. It’s the only life they’ve ever known and they’re proud of it.

“So I always had people staring at me, and I always kind of greeted them with a smile,” said Bear.

“Even at a young age, I never thought I was different than anyone else,” said Rowley.

Over the course of the month, they have been traveling across the Tampa Bay area. Every stop this dynamic duo makes is a chance to educate and amaze. Most recently, they visited the J.C. Newman Cigar Company.

“We really wanted to highlight locations like this that are accessible and are easy to navigate for individuals who might have a disability,” said Santiago Corrada, President of Visit Tampa Bay.

This is the first year Visit Tampa Bay has joined the Disability Pride Month campaign. They say it embodies everything they stand for.

“Diversity, Equity and inclusion include all people, and so this is a population we really wanted to highlight,” said Corrada. “I used to say do the right thing, but it’s do the only thing, and that’s to be accommodating and accessible to all people.”

Rowley was not shy about giving cigar rolling a try. What she lacks in the upper body, she makes up for in her toes.

“It's really important to me because a lot of people assume just because you have a disability means they can’t do something, but in reality, they can do it; it just might take a little bit of accommodating or assistance in order to do it,” said Rowley.

One of the biggest goals of these field trips is to be an example for all businesses and attractions.

“If we can make a 112-year-old historic cigar factory accessible and welcoming to everyone, so can every other business,” said Drew Newman.

Chelsea said just give her community a chance to participate, and they’ll take care of the rest.

“I say it every day, people with disabilities are regular people we just need to adapt a little bit,” said Bear.

For more information on the Disability Pride Month campaign, go to visittampabay.com.

For more information on cigar rolling classes open to the public, go to jcnewman.com.