KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- March 11 marks the second annual Disability Advocacy Day. The Tennessee General Assembly filed an official proclamation just last year.

People in East Tennessee continue to push for equality for those within the disability community and their families.

“One minute you’re active, you’re relying on your own physical ability for my job, I was very active before my injury, and then all of a sudden within seconds the ability to be able to walk and perform activities of daily living is gone,” explained Carly Pearson who went from fighting fires to fighting for equality for those with disabilities like herself.  

“I was a wildland firefighter and was unfortunately injured in a wildland fire back in 2002 out in Oregon,” she said.

She’s been using a wheelchair ever since but she hasn’t let that stop her from doing the things she loves like hand cycling, rock climbing, and even sled hockey.

Pearson wants others with disabilities to have the same opportunities, “making sure that people can get out in the community and to not feel like they can’t go somewhere because of a barrier we have within our infrastructure.”

One in 3 Tennesseans has a disability which makes up 1.6 million people within the state.

Pearson said, “it really is a community. We need to be able to be a community, to provide for each other, and to not exclude folks, and I think the more transparent we are with our needs and our hopes and our dreams the more we can accomplish.”

The Tennessee Disability Coalition helps to fight for policy changes and easier access to essential support and services.

“A lot of times people with disabilities have to go to more doctors appointments and they’re frequenting places that may have a higher risk for covid and so the telehealth has really been a great positive influence for disabilities because first of all, they don’t have to leave the comfort of their home,” Pearson adds.

Friday, several locations across Tennessee including the Henley Bridge will be lighting up blue in support of the disability community.

It’s a reminder that advocacy never stops.

There are several recent bills that have been put in place to help those with disabilities and their families. You can find a full list here.