Disability Pride Month

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Did you know that 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. live with a disability or a physical/mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities?

Every July, Disability Pride Month celebrates the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination based on disability, including setting minimum standards for accessibility in public spaces.

What is Disability Pride?

Disability Pride combats the belief that those with disabilities are ‘abnormal’ or are ‘problems to be fixed.’ This type of thinking leads to devaluing people with disabilities and fuels ableism or discrimination in favor of non-disabled individuals.

Celebrating Disability Pride is a public display of self-acceptance, emphasizing disabilities as a natural part of human diversity and validating the disabled experience. Disability Pride provides a platform for social change that directly challenges systemic ableism and the stigma surrounding disability while acknowledging the dignity and worth of all people through embracing the natural body diversity of all humans.

Disability Rights Movement

The disability rights movement gained traction in the 1960s, but the ADA wasn’t passed until decades later, in 1990. This key piece of civil rights legislation protects against discrimination based on disability and wouldn’t have been passed without the work of early disability activists. 

However, the rights-based framework does little to achieve equality for ALL disabled people, especially the most marginalized who are not able to exercise these rights (people of color, those experiencing homelessness and/or substance use, LGBTQ+ individuals, etc.) 

Disability Justice

Disability justice was termed in 2005 by the Disability Justice Collective, a group of disabled queer women of color who recognized the limitations of the disability rights movement. These limitations gave no thought to how the intersection of multiple identities impacts the oppression of people with disabilities. 

The disability justice movement not only originated with disabled queer people of color but also centers on the most historically marginalized excluded from the disability rights framework.

Disability justice emphasizes the intersections of ableism with other forms of systematic oppression and acknowledges that people’s experiences of disability and ableism vary.

Disability and the Medical System

There is a long historical record of traumatic harm caused to disabled individuals by the medical community in the United States, including institutionalization and sterilization. Atrocities like these were, and largely still are, a result of viewing people with disabilities as ‘less than’ and something to be controlled or eliminated. 

Historically, disabled individuals were viewed as ‘incompetent’ and treated like children, making them unable to make decisions for themselves. To combat this view and promote the agency of individuals with disabilities in being able to make their own decisions, the disability justice movement has rallied around the expression “Nothing About Us Without Us.” 

In a more recent disability justice campaign, #NoBodyIsDisposable skyrocketed during COVID-19 to challenge the discrimination of medical providers who prioritized the care and treatment of non-disabled individuals.

The expression was coined by Patty Berne, one of the founding members of the Disability Justice Collective, and in 2017 she released a video series examining disability justice, ableism, and disposability where she explains: “Ableism tells us that some bodies are valuable and some are disposable.”

We still have a lot of progress to make in moving past minimum standards in protecting disabled people from discrimination, stigma and oppression. But as the disability justice movement continues to grow, so does the number of disability advocates, allies and activists working to resist ableism.

Take control of your health today by finding an inclusive and accessible healthcare provider near you!