Disabled in Action opens Florida office

INTERVIEW with Rev. Calvin Peterson, Founder and Director                                                                           Disabled in Action, Atlanta, Georgia


The Reverend Calvin Peterson is now an elder (72 years) in the disability rights movement. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia and continue to be the Executor Director of Disabled in Action.


Jane Dunhamn 


Congratulations on opening a second office in Florida. First can you provide background on DIA? What year did you begin DIA in Atlanta? What services and advocacy do you provide? Has anything changed over the years?


Calvin Peterson


I was 19 years old in 1 967when I graduated from segregated inaccessible Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia.  When I graduated from high school I felt compelled to show my mom appreciation for her consistency in providing me with the basic necessities of life.  I was fueled with a remarkable serge of energy to get a job.  I thought I would be welcomed by employers. Unfortunately, I was confronted with the most devastating time I ever experienced. I was outright rejected by every business owner for employment.  This was my first reality of an exclusionary society. My thoughts evolved from that moment. I thought if this is happening to me, how many more disabled people of African descendants are dealing with this? The NAACP dealt with the discriminatory practices of employers in employment of African American with disabilities. That experience was more harmful emotionally than the rejection I received from the employers. This sparked an inner determination to form a nonprofit organization reflecting the name of NAACP. I then formed the Advanced Association for Physically Handicapped Inc in 1970.  In 1986 we received a charter in name of Disabled in Action Inc. We are and will continue to be the voice of disabled people, their family and caregivers. We will especially continue to empower and provide hope to disabled people living in poverty. 


Jane Dunhamn


How has DIA evolved over the years? 


Calvin Peterson


The evolution of DIA has and continues to be miraculous. We have been visible in the community and the world, thanks to social media. Our website www.disabledinactionatlanta.org


We consistently provide the community with perspectives other than the norm. We provide information to change the traditional narrative about African Americans with disabilities. 


Jane Dunhamn


What is the funding mechanism for DIA?


Calvin Peterson


The sale of my autobiography Nothing is Impossible provides ongoing resources for Disabled in Action. We also wrote and produced a stage play based on the book. The other part of our funding comes from community donations.


Jane Dunhamn


Tell us how establishing the office in Florida came about.


Calvin Peterson


I gave a lecture at ITC Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. And one of the students approached me about Disabled in Action.  She had a sister that was disabled. She became interested in DIA and suggested that I branch out and start and office in Florida. The office is located at New Hope AME Church in Orlando.


Jane Dunhamn


Will the advocacy be the same in Florida as in Georgia?


Calvin Peterson


Yes, the target population is people who live in and below the poverty line.


Jane Dunhamn


Do you have suggestions for other Black disabled grass root organizations throughout the US? 


Calvin Peterson


Yes, my work is in self-esteem building for disabled youth.  I encourage other organizations to join in with issues facing disabled youth and help find solutions. I encourage each of us to partner with each other that share the same goals, such as the National Black Disability Coalition (NBDC) who works to get the word out about Black disability organizations and advocacy and community work in Black communities.