Next month, I will celebrate five years of living with disability. I am a proud Black disabled woman who lives with invisible and visible (my cane is bedazzled and says MF BOSS) disability. My body is full of rare genetic conditions like Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Coronary Artery Spasms, and Alport Syndrome. These conditions give me a slew of comorbidities, symptoms, and a lot of doctors. In fact, I just got out of the emergency room for uncontrolled pain and am currently recovering. Now, you may feel bad for me, and don’t get me wrong my life is hard, but I have pride. I am proud of what I accomplished and will continue to accomplish. Disability Pride Month began in July 1990 as a commemoration to when President George Bush signed the American with Disabilities Act into law on July 26, 1990. Yup, I know what you’re thinking, 1990!!! Although there has been progress like sidewalk curb cuts, ramps, and signage on public transportation, a lot more needs to be done. People who live with disability are proud of our history and are experts of what is needed to make our country more welcoming and equitable. Here are ways to celebrate Disability Pride Month today and always!
Disabled is not a bad word.
Trust me, I am disabled and we love to hear the word. It acknowledges us, our existence, and reality at the same time. Disability is part of my intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, which means the intersections of our identity, ethnicity, class, gender, physical ability, and lived experience. As Black disabled woman, my experience is different than a white man or woman with a disability whether visible or invisible (thanks racism, discrimination, oppression, etc.). Also, if disabled were a bad word, we wouldn’t have Disability Pride Month. Disability is something I am immensely proud of. It is why I keep being amazing! Yes, people with disabilities have more challenges in life, but tenacity, determination, and resilience are things to be celebrated!
Stop using able-bodied and say non-disabled!
If you’re looking for a way to take action this month, stop using the phrase “able-bodied people” because disabled bodies have the ability to do many things! Using non-disabled brings more disabled people into the conversation and shares accountability of how we all need to be mindful of the different abilities we all have. My ability may look different than your ability if you’re non-disabled but trust me, there are lots of independent, asking-for-help-when-needed, advocating-for-self-and-others, brilliant, and confident disabled folks out there like me. Saying non-disabled is an important and easy way to advocate for disabled people and normalize our needs.
Educate yourself on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was due to advocacy from the Capital Crawl. On March 13, 1990 over 1,000 people both non-disabled and disabled marched to the White House and about 60 disabled folks crawled up the steps, showing inaccessible design and architecture. About four months later President Bush signed ADA into law. Take some time to watch Crip Camp, a documentary executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama of a special camp in the 1970s for teens with disabilities whose campers turned into disabled activists who campaigned for disability rights and justice.
Use your power to support disabled folks!
There are so many ways to support disabled people during Disability Pride Month and after. You can buy from a disabled owned company like mine or buy a book from deafblind lawyer and author Haben Girma. If you have the power, you can hire disabled people. There are so many job boards and recruiting firms like Chronically Capable, disabledperson, and AbilityLinks that can diversify your workplace. Follow accounts like Upgrade Accessibility, Crutches and Spice, Blindish Latina and Aaron Philip. Learn ways to be an advocate or take a fitness class from disability justice expert Kelsey Lindell. And you can volunteer or donate to disabled and/or disease organizations like The Ehlers-Danlos Society, TASH, or this intersectional list of organizations.
Advocate for OR participate in Disability Pride Events.
June is Pride month, an important month to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. But the drop off is felt hard in July for Disability Pride Month. Companies don’t change their logos to the Disability Pride Flag, have events in their offices, or sponsor our celebrations in the same way. If you are privileged to have a job, ask your employer to celebrate Disability Pride Month. There are over 40 million disabled people in America. That means there are over 40 million people to celebrate. Almost 13 percent of America is disabled compared to 7 percent who identify as LGBTQ+. It is time for the LGBTQ+ Pride and Disability Pride celebrations to be equal. And you can be the start of that.
Disability Pride Month is a crucial time to celebrate how we are an act of resistance. Disabled people thrive in a country that constantly questions our value and worth. We shine amongst barriers, inadequate health systems, and intersectionality. So, say non-disabled. Hire disabled folks. Buy from disabled owned companies and celebrate disabled people July and every month of the year!