July is Disability Pride Month, and today is Disability Pride Day, a day that celebrates people with disabilities and makes us visible in societies where we are too often ignored. Although Disability Pride Day is American in origin, disability pride unifies people with disabilities globally.
As a young woman with cystic fibrosis, celebrating disability pride while in my 149th day of isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic has taken on even greater meaning. My body is in many ways limited by my disability; the pain and shortened life expectancy I experience. But the pandemic has made me realize even more the abilities I have to survive and cope that many without disabilities do not possess. I have worn a surgical mask nearly daily for seven years to protect myself from germs that could trigger recurring lung infections, and I have spent months indoors, isolated in bed because of my waning health.
As the virus spreads around the world, isolation has become a new way of life for many people without disabilities. But, for many of us with disabilities, Covid-19 is yet another experience with isolation. People with disabilities have endured the hardships of isolation whether in hospitals, institutions, nursing homes, or even our own homes. And we have learned to survive, adapt, find community, and even thrive, despite societal barriers and conditions that keep us separate. I have learned to cope with isolation through online community spaces, activities, and maintaining personal spiritual practices.
But beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, many people with disabilities will remain isolated. This must change. The first step should be to put people with disabilities and their expertise at the forefront of conversations on lockdowns, physical distancing, and isolation.
People with disabilities are proud of our disabilities and we’re proud of what we’ve learned and achieved despite the adversity of isolation and stigma. We have developed tools of resilience, and today more than any other day is the time to hold onto that pride. As we celebrate Disability Pride Month, we should take this opportunity to learn from disabled wisdom. If we are willing to listen, isolation during the pandemic may become a little bit easier for all of us.