Use July to accept and celebrate all facets of you!
July is Disability Pride Month - not to be confused with LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which takes place each June.
There has been some form of Disability Pride Month since federal legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (sometimes referred to as the ADA), was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The first celebration, for instance, happened that same year in Boston. Most major American cities have since continued the tradition with some form of disability celebration during the month of July. Even so, there has not yet been formal federal recognition of this awareness month.
What is it?
Disability Pride Month celebrates disabled and chronically ill people and also raises awareness of outdated attitudes and stereotypes. It's an opportunity for people with disabilities to come together, show pride in themselves and say what they need to say. It's also a month of reflection for those who fought for disability rights and those (perhaps once overlooked by society and history books) who made a difference in this community.
Another key element of Disability Pride Month is the opportunity for people to embrace their own self-worth. As Anthony Rios told USA Today during last year's Disability Pride Month, "We don't want your pity. We want your pride." Rios, who is blind, said he's reminded each July that he needs acceptance of his disability, not sympathy.
Such challenges aren't separate from the individual, but an integral part of the individual. A truly welcoming and inclusive community understands and adapts in order to provide better experiences for all.
Speaking on The Takeaway podcast last year, disability rights advocate and "Demystifying Disability" author Emily Ladau said, "We have been socialized to understand disability solely from a negative perspective. Disability is something that is wrong with a person. Disability is something that is bad, that happened to you, that we want to get rid of and eliminate from society. That's what we've been told, but disability activists are saying, no, that's not true, let's flip the script. Disability is actually something that has brought so much depth and richness to our existence."
Living with a disability isn't always easy, she added, because those challenged must live in a society that doesn't accept people as they are.
"... pride is not just about celebrating who you are as an individual. It's about recognizing that disabled people should be just like any other diverse identity, a celebrated part of our community," she said.
Let Your Flag Fly
The first American city to follow Boston in hosting a Disability Pride parade was Chicago. In their statement of intent organizers said they wanted to (1) change the way people think and define "disability," (2) break and end internalized shame among those with disabilities, and (3) promote the idea that disability is a natural and fundamental part of human diversity.
That statement inspired Ann Magill, who is disabled and considers herself a community advocate, to develop a flag to represent the Disability Pride Movement. The flag, which was recently revamped to allow easier viewing by those with visually triggered disabilities, encompasses all aspects of the disability community, including those who have perished.
Magill posted the full symbolism of the flag when she introduced the new version on reddit.
Do Your Part
This year's annual Disability Pride Parade in Chicago takes place on Saturday, July 23. But what if your town doesn't offer such a celebration and you can't travel? There are still things you can do to make a difference.
First, it isn't too late to consider organizing a small event. Reach out to local organizations known for their advocacy work and offer your time and talent.
If you a part of a group that hosts other community events, view them from a broad variety of perspectives. For instance, if your venue is multi-floor, does it have an elevator? Is the venue on a bus or other public transit route? Lighting and glare, ambient sound and more might be making your "community" event less accessible to members of your community.
Instead of strict adherence to a person-first ("person with autism") or identity-first ("autistic person") style of speaking or writing, choose instead to follow the lead of those with disabilities. Pay attention to how they address themselves and follow suit.
Advocate for environmental changes in your community that benefit everyone. For instance, adaptations or adequate seating on public transit, accessible curbs and storefronts or local websites with difficult to read color schemes or a lack of closed captioning.
Recognize that doing something differently is the same as doing something. For instance, listening to an audiobook is reading a book.
Ask before assisting. It's never OK to push someone in a wheelchair, for instance, unless you've been specifically asked to do so or have had your offer for assistance accepted.
Without condition, believe those who disclose a disability, especially if they are requesting an accommodation.
Finally, be aware that some health concerns are greater than the ongoing desire to return to "normal" following the pandemic. Also that your pandemic experience may differ greatly from that of others.