I only recently learned that July is Disability Pride Month. Although not yet officially recognized in the United States, since 2004 Disability Pride Month has been celebrated with parades in cities including New York, Chicago, Madison, and Los Angeles.
July was chosen because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26, 1990. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and in relation to access to state and local government services.
July is also the month when, 28 years ago, my father suffered a spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia. He joined what the World Health Organization has called “the world’s largest minority,” as an estimated 15 percent of the world’s population live with some type of disability.
Learning about Disability Pride Month made me wonder whether my father was proud of his disability. I even questioned whether “pride” was the most appropriate term. Looking back, I doubt he felt pride that he could no longer use a screwdriver, but I’m certain he was proud to have taught his three reluctant daughters how to use one.
“Disability pride,” I learned, does not aim to dismiss the challenges and societal barriers people with disabilities encounter. Instead, it seeks to celebrate the intrinsic worth and meaningful contributions of people like my father.
Ardra, a blogger with multiple sclerosis, says: “Being proud to be disabled isn’t about liking my disability. It isn’t about pretending that disability doesn’t straight-up suck. Rather, claiming disability pride is a rejection of the notion that I should feel ashamed of my body or my disability. It’s a rejection of the idea that I am less able to contribute and participate in the world, that I take more than I give, that I have less inherent value and potential than the able-bodied Becky next to me.”
July is an occasion to celebrate people with disabilities, honor their inherent dignity and inalienable rights, promote their visibility, and applaud their achievements. July is also a powerful reminder about the importance of disability rights and why we fight for them. While some progress is being made at the legislative level – for example, the passage of the ADA Amendments Act in 2008 – more should be done before we live in a truly inclusive world.