In February, we celebrate Black history and culture.
March is reserved for women’s history and general female empowerment.
LGBTQ+ Pride is celebrated throughout the month of June.
But did you know that the disability community also has an honorary month? Though not yet internationally or nationally recognized, many disabled activists around the world have proclaimed the month of July to be Disability Pride Month.
But Disability Pride Month is in no way a newly developed idea. In fact, it has a history that goes back more than 30 years!
In this blog post, I’ll share the origins of Disability Pride, explaining the importance of this month to the disability communities of the past, present, and future, and demonstrating why allyship for this underserved community is necessary year round.
Well, actually, it started with the founding of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But a jubilant parade up the streets of Boston quickly followed.
The ADA was enacted on July 26, 1990. This historic document was the “first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities” in the entire world.
When this document was brought into existence, a huge shift occurred across the nation. For the first time ever, disabled people were accepted into society as equals. The law protected disabled people from workplace discrimination and inequity in education, and made it illegal for most businesses to be inaccessible.
While many would argue that there is much room for improvement to the ADA, generally speaking, it has given many disabled people freedoms that some never thought were possible. Additionally, the ADA has set a precedent for other countries around the world. Since 2000, 181 countries have passed similar disability laws.
So, long story short, the ADA was and still is a big deal and is worthy of some celebration.
After the first year’s success, Boston held a second Disability Pride Parade in 1991. But unfortunately, that would be the last official Disability Pride event held in the city. For about a decade, Disability Pride faded in and out of existence. There were some pop-up marches in New York from 1992 to 1996, but it wasn’t until Chicago’s first Disability Pride Parade in 2004 that any real traction was made.
In 2015, New York City’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, declared July to be Disability Pride Month. Mayor de Blasio is the first and still the only public official to make this declaration.
At this point you may be wondering whether celebrating this month matters — if it’s not widely recognized or accepted by the bigwig leaders of the world.
Well, this month means everything to the disability community. All things considered, disabled people are constantly forgotten about. When people talk about diversity and inclusion, it’s pretty common for the disabled perspective to be left out entirely.
I believe that many people think that because the ADA exists, disabled people are taken care of. But many of us face hardships each and every day that the general population should know and care about.
So although Disability Pride Month is really celebrated only within our own community (for the time being), it is still incredibly important. In the past, Disability Pride Month was a time for disabled individuals to come together and celebrate their newfound freedoms. Today, it is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come and to uplift one another’s stories so that we can continue to build upon the initial progress that was made 30 years ago. In the future, I hope to see Disability Pride Month celebrated far and wide, as this would be proof that disabled people have been fully accepted into wider society as more than just legal equals.
As a disability blogger and advocate, I’ve noticed many new people have followed my social media accounts over the last month. I’m grateful that they’ve decided to take steps to educate themselves about the disabled lived experience, but I know they are not all here to stay. Once the excitement from Disability Pride Month settles down, I know that people will hit that unfollow button and never look back.
I truly cannot stress how important it is that interest is not lost at the end of this month.
In London, England, where I currently live, only around 20 percent of all underground stations are fully wheelchair accessible. The New York City borough of Manhattan is doing only slightly better with 36 of the 147 (24 percent) subway stations being fully wheelchair accessible. And that’s just public transport! Housing for disabled people is an even bigger nightmare, with only six percent of homes in the U.S. being accessible.
In the U.S., there are many issues with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled people. The biggest one being the low income cap that forces many disabled people into a life of poverty. Additionally, due to strict SSI income rules, many disabled people are unable to get married or even live with their partners for fear of losing what little money is coming their way.
And these are just a small fraction of the issues still facing the disability community in 2021. There are about 1,000 other social and infrastructure problems I could address if I had the time and space.
So please, join in our celebrations! Cheer us on as we tell our stories and shout out proclamations of self-love! But be sure to stick around so we can also make a real change to the way society treats disabled people around the world.