Nakia S. Wiley is the vice president of Disability Pride Madison, an organization that hopes to both advance disability justice and encourage disability pride throughout the city, state and nation. As a disabled woman with many disabled relatives, coming across the organization was like finding a family for her.
Wiley is also firmly established as a community advocate outside of her work with Disability Pride, as she serves as the professional learning coordinator for the special education division of the Madison Metropolitan School District, and helps facilitate Edgewood College’s Cutting Edge program. When she’s not working, Wiley spends her time advocating for disability awareness in and around Madison.
Disability Pride organizes the well-known Disability Pride Festival, which will commemorate its 10th anniversary on July 29 in Warner Park. Volunteers interested in supporting the event are very welcome.
What do you think is the biggest challenge our community faces?
The acceptance of others. I navigate a lot of spaces in Madison, and I see the segregation, and I hear it, and feel it. (This city’s) biggest challenge is to move forward holistically, so we can have an inclusive city where everybody belongs and everybody’s getting what they need to thrive, feel safe and valued.
What do you wish people in our community understood better?
Inclusion! It’s the buzzword now, but what does it really mean? Everybody truly getting what they need. Systems that are designed for every human to prosper, be it medical needs, financial needs, the job market, health care. Being social and going places with people and seeing things and having deep, rich cultural experiences. Madison has so many beautiful cultures, but I feel like we only pick and choose a few of them to uplift, and we’re really harming ourselves because we can’t learn about each other.
What is one change you would make if you could that would make life better for people in our community?
Equity and access. We’re beyond equality. Give me what I need, let me get through the door. Let me understand the systems. I walked through (the Trans Joy) fest...They’re giving people safe needles, and I love that. That is access, instead of shaming our humans in the community who are addicted to alcohol and drugs.
What in our community gives you hope?
Our generation, the next generation and the generations coming after us. People like Disability Pride and NAMI. We can sit back and think about how messed up society is, but if we stay there, we will miss all the beauty.