Celebrating Disability Pride Month
Lisa L. Mueller
Casimir Jones S.C.
July is Disability Pride Month. Disability Pride Month, distinct from Disability Awareness Month, which is held in March, celebrates visibility and positive awareness for people with disabilities, promotes acceptance and recognition of Disability as a cultural identity, and offers educational opportunities on being an ally to those with disabilities. The month provides a reminder that people with disabilities matter and are entitled to the same rights and values as non-disabled people.
Disability Pride Month is relatively new and is not yet nationally recognized. Due to the lack of national recognition, it has not yet achieved the same level of awareness as other Pride Months such as LGBTQIA+, Black History Month, AAPI, or Women’s History Month.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26, 1990 to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Following the passage of the ADA, the first Disability Pride Day event was held in Boston in 1990. The first official celebration of Disability Pride Month occurred in July 2015, which also marked the 25th anniversary of the passing of the ADA. Today, cities across the U.S. have celebrated disability pride month with parades and other festivities. Ann Magill, a member of the disabled community, created a Disability Pride Flag which symbolizes Disability Pride Month.
Each of the elements of the flag symbolizes a different part of the disability community. The black field represents disabled people who have lost their lives due not only to their illness, but also to negligence, suicide and eugenics. The shape of the lines represents how individuals with disabilities must creatively navigate barriers. Each of the colors on the flag represents a different aspect of disability or impairment
- Red represents physical disabilities
- Yellow represents cognitive and intellectual disabilities
- White represents invisible and undiagnosed disabilities
- Blue represents mental illness
- Green represents sensory perception disabilities.
Unfortunately, all too often, our society is exclusionary when it comes to people with disabilities. As a result, disability can often be overlooked in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. Thus, Disability Pride Month provides people without disabilities an opportunity to be better allies for people with disabilities and to educate themselves about ableism.
What is ableism? Ableism is any form of discrimination in favor of non-disabled people. Ableism comes in many different forms that range from subtly offensive language to outright prejudice. Some examples of ableism include:
- Lack of compliance with disability rights laws such as the ADA
- Failing to incorporate accessibility into building design plans
- Building inaccessible websites
- Choosing an inaccessible venue for a meeting or event
- Not making captioning available during a live or virtual event or meeting
- Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations
- Questioning if some is “actually” disabled, or “how much” s/he is disabled
- Asking a person how s/he became disabled
- Offering to fix or suggesting someone fix their disability
Microaggressions are everyday verbal or behavioral expressions that communicate a negative slight or insult in relation to a person’s gender identity, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, etc. Examples of common ableist microaggressions phrases include:
- “That’s so lame.”
- “You are so retarded.”
- “That guy is crazy.”
- “You’re acting so bi-polar today”.
- “Are you off your meds?”
- “It’s like the blind leading the blind.”
- “My ideas fell on deaf ears.
- “S/he is such a psycho.”
- “I don’t even think of you as disabled.”
The problem with these phrases is they imply that having a disability makes a person less than, and that a disability is a negative – a problem to be fixed, rather than a normal part of the human experience and a recognition that disability can be a cultural identity to some individuals.
How can you and your organization celebrate Disability Pride Month?
- Educate yourself about the disabled community. Some useful places to start include:
Make sure you are always using disability preferred language. When talking about or describing people in the disability community, two different phrases are often used “disabled people” or “people with disabilities”. The interchangeability of these phrases perpetuates the lack of autonomy disabled people have over how they are represented and seen. When engaging with the disability community, many prefer “people first” language, namely, “people with disabilities” is the most appropriate to use because it centers on the person first and foremost. When in doubt, ask the individual in question.
Ensure that your workplace, event, and/or meeting is accessible. When planning an event, make sure that the venue is accessible for people with disabilities. Offer seating during networking events. Make sure captioning is available during a live or virtual event or meeting. Provide quiet spaces and opportunities for individuals to share their comfort levels around others.
Amplify voices of people with disabilities. Share stories of people with disabilities, how they embrace their individuality, and the obstacles they face daily. Engage people with disabilities in your conversations, instead of speaking for them.