July is Disability Pride Month. Not many people including disabled people have heard of Disability Pride Month and the fact that it has had its own flag since 2017. Understandably, it is an awareness month that is not well known. Honestly as a disabled person myself, I only discovered it in 2020.
One of the common reasons that it is not well known in the UK, is that Disability Pride originally coincided with the Americans with the Disability Act (the ADA) which is the civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against the disabled, which was signed in July 1990. Disability Pride originally started in America when the first event started in Boston, then the first Disability Pride Day parade was held in Chicago in 2004.
Since then, Disability Pride has grown and is now a month-long series of events to celebrate disability, and positively influence the way people think about disability while also challenging stigmas and stereotypes that surround disability. Disability Pride events now take place in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Brighton, with the hope that it will only grow further, and more places will get involved.
Some individuals are still not aware of Disability Pride and there is also confusion around Pride that takes place in June (they are ultimately different events). Some disabled people do not agree with or celebrate Disability Pride, they feel it is patronising and reinforces the idea that they aren’t happy with who they are and their disability. This is completely fine for anyone to feel this way. It must be accepted that not all disabled people will want to get involved or celebrate.
When we think about Disability Pride, it will have a different meaning for everyone.
What does Disability Pride mean to me?
To me, Disability Pride means not only being able to challenge the stigma that surrounds disability and the discrimination that I face but to try and get rid of the internal ableism that I have, which has come from society telling me that I "don’t look disabled" and that I "don’t need mobility aids".
This is what other disabled people said about what disability pride means to them:
“The irony of Disability Pride Month coming directly after Pride Month is not lost on me. Considering disabled people are still largely unable to access pride and queer venues. I look forward to the day queer disabled are included and LGBTQ+ people learn about disability rights” – Vikki.
“It means my disability is my normality and my normality is my disability.”
“Disability Pride means to me being able to show society that we exist and can make a valuable contribution to this world of ours. There should be no stigma attached to being disabled. We are human beings too who just have to do things in different ways to others.”
“Not being embarrassed about, for example, being in a wheelchair, or asking for help when you need it.”
“Raising vital awareness that we do desperately need and deserve.”
Since 2017 Disability Pride has had its own flag, which was redesigned in 2021 to make it more visually accessible.
The Disability Pride Flag has five different colours which represent different disabilities:
Black background – mourning disabled lives
Red – physical disabilities
Yellow – cognitive and intellectual disabilities
White – invisible and undiagnosed disabilities
Blue – mental health conditions
Green – sensory perception disabilities
Disability Pride Month has a lot of purpose and is celebrated in a range of ways. But it is generally used to promote awareness of disability as an identity, a community, a culture and the positive pride felt by disabled people. While also being able to directly challenge systemic ableism and discrimination disabled people face
It is also fine if disabled people don't wish to celebrate Disability Pride Month, many feel that they are already proud and may feel that it is patronising. There can also still be some disabled people struggling to accept their disability or may feel they are not disabled enough. This is all fine, and all differences should be celebrated. In the end, disability is an individual journey, but we are all in this together while continuing to support each other as a disabled community.
I like to think that Disability Pride Month is about helping disabled individuals feel like they have a voice and encouraging them to feel unashamed and unapologetic about who they are. We continue to raise awareness making sure we are all seen and heard regardless of our disabilities and I hope it continues to grow over the years.
This relates to being an OU student as it is important to talk about disability and inclusion when it comes to studying as well. It is also important to be proud of all your achievements and the extra barriers that you may have to overcome when studying with a disability. The Open University also have a strong disabled community and support group with the Disabled Students Group.
What does Disability Pride mean to you?
What made you proud to be you, this Disability Pride Month?
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to The Hoot or the OU Students Association.