In the same vein as LGBTQ+ Pride Month being held each June, July brings us Disability Pride Month – a time for disabled persons to embrace and reclaim their disabilities to help combat any shame or internalized ableism they may carry. This may sound great in theory, but, what does that mean, and how does it work in real time?
Due to decades of harm, neglect, and abuse, the disabled population has been made to feel shameful of what makes them different. From playground taunts to being labeled as “slow” or worse in schools, people learn ableist language from a young age. This mistreatment and internalized shame can follow a person for their entire life, often leading to depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, or worse – successful suicide attempts. For decades, and still to this day, people with disabilities have been discriminated against in nearly every subset of society. However, in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into Federal law, making it illegal to discriminate against disabled persons and providing protections for them in places like school and work. In 2015, the first official recognition of Disability Pride Month occurred in July, noting the 25th anniversary of the ADA.
Disability Pride Month is a chance for Americans to work together to amplify the voices of disabled persons as well as allow nondisabled people to look more closely at the ways in which their privilege has advantaged them and how they can become better allies for their disabled peers. By including people with disabilities in everyday activities, speaking up about and creating inclusive and accessible environments where they live and work, creating equitable opportunities to support their disabled peers in both education and work, and by truly listening to and learning from the stories and voices of disabled persons, nondisabled people can really become better allies and a fighting force for the voices of those who are disabled.
What does that look like?
A – acknowledging and respecting individual experiences and abilities
L – learn about the different types of disabilities
L – leverage your influence to promote accessibility and inclusion
Y – yield the floor to people with disabilities to help identify and eliminate barriers
Through the simple steps of ALLYship, you can make a difference and be a voice for the voiceless, not only this month, but in all the months going forward.
Disability Pride Month is a time for all of us to take the disability community seriously. If you yourself are among the 26% of Americans who have a disability, use this month to tell your story, embrace your disability, and unshackle yourself and your peers from any internalized shame you carry. For decades, disabled persons have been made to feel unseen, unlovable, unnecessary, and unimportant. Disabilities do not look like one thing over another, and oftentimes disabilities are “invisible” meaning they cannot be seen at all. This Disability Pride Month is an excellent opportunity for everyone to investigate the ways our world can be seen as unfit for the disabled community. It is also a great time for everyone to advocate for the needs of disabled people while celebrating that which makes them unique – even if it can’t be seen on the outside.
VANTAGE Aging honors and celebrates all individuals with disabilities, and our four core programs help to alleviate the barriers many feel in their everyday lives. Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio delivers fresh meals to those living with a disability for whom food access and preparation may be a struggle. Our Workforce Solutions program helps disabled persons get connected to employment by offering job training and job placement to those who are 55 and older. AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP connects volunteers who are 55 and older with opportunities to serve their communities, allowing those who wish to give back the chance to use their skills they already have (or helping them develop new ones!) while serving others. And, our Home Wellness Solutions staff provides simple supports, customized to each individual’s needs, to allow many people living with disabilities to live and stay independent in their homes while they age in place successfully and comfortably.
There are many ways we all can celebrate and honor Disability Pride Month, and it’s up to each of us to help amplify the voice and advocate for the needs of disabled Americans. Starting where you are with what you have is a good place to kick off your own advocacy for others, but if you want to learn more on how you can be a better ally, please check for resources through your local library, read books by disabled authors, and be more aware of the language you use every day to help combat your own internalized ableism. It is up to all of us to be the change we wish to see, and you can take small steps now to create big impacts in your community.
Flag Colors and Their Representations –
Black – for mourning and rage, those who are victims of ableist violence, and rebellion/protest
The Five Colors – variety of needs and experiences
The Parallel Strips – solidarity with the disability community and all its differences
The Diagonal Band – “cutting across” barriers that separate disabled people, creativity, light cutting through dark