The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26, 1990, to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Following this legislation, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day event in July 1990 and Disability Pride Month was born.
Since then, Disability Pride events have been celebrated in the month of July in cities including Los Angeles; New York City, San Antonio, Madison, Wisconsin; Brighton, UK; and Charleston, South Carolina. The list of participating cities continues to grow.
While disability pride and parades are a relatively new concept, the idea of Disability Pride is rooted in the same foundation as movements like LGBTQ+ and Black Pride. In 2013, Chicago’s Disability Pride Parade defined their mission in three ways: “To change the way people think about and define “disability,” to break down and end the internalised shame among people with Disabilities, and to promote the belief in society that Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which people living with disabilities can take pride.”
- The Black Field: this field is to represent the disabled people who have lost their lives due not only to their illness, but also to negligence, suicide, and eugenics.
- The Colours: each colour on this flag represents a different aspect of disability or impairment.
- Red: physical disabilities
- Yellow: cognitive and intellectual disabilities
- White: invisible and undiagnosed disabilities
- Blue: mental illness
- Green: sensory perception disabilities
But what does pride mean in the context of disability? For many disabled people, seeing these two words in the same sentence is a novel concept. People with disabilities have traditionally been made to feel ‘less than’ and ashamed of their disabled identity by society. The very fact that we may need ‘accommodations’ or special services in order to do the most basic things in life, can lead to an internalised feeling of shame. Every time we have to say sorry for needing a ramp to access a venue, or we have to explain to someone why we needed extra time in a test, it chips away at the pride we have in ourselves and our disabled identities.
To overcome these feelings, it’s helpful to look at the social model of disability. The social model says yes, we may have medical conditions, but it’s society that disables us. It’s inaccessibility that’s the disabling thing, not some problem deep within us that we need to fix. Think about it, if the ramp was always there, or we all just did away with the notion that doing well under time pressure equals academic success, our disabilities wouldn’t lead us to have those feelings of shame and internalised guilt in the first place.
The word ‘Pride’ is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘a reasonable or justifiable self-respect’. At the Valuable 500, we believe that every single person with a disability deserves to feel pride in themselves, because it is unequivocally justifiable and reasonable to be proud of being disabled. For us, it’s a month to celebrate each other’s uniqueness and take pride in who we are. Because let’s not forget that being disabled makes us inherent problem solvers, innovative thinkers and gives us an ability to see the world through a unique and valuable lens.