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What is Disability Pride?

People with disabilities are the largest and most diverse minority group within the population, representing all abilities, ages, races, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. Because at least 1-in-4 adults in the United States has some type of disability, it’s no surprise that a movement of “disability pride” is emerging and rapidly expanding. So, what is disability pride? AmeriDisability has the breakdown of what you need to know…

Disability pride is defined as accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness, and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. Disability pride is an integral part of an inclusive crusade and, furthermore, a direct challenge to systemic ableism and stigmatizing definitions of disability.

Defining Disability Pride

Since disability pride is a fairly new concept, it is important for people with disabilities to be proudly visible in the community, according to the Disability Community Resource Center.

Oftentimes, people solely think about disability as a medical diagnosis. For example: “My disability is a spinal cord injury,” “my disability is depression” or “my disability is a brain injury.” But disability is far more than just the physical and/or mental effects on the body. Disability is much more than the pills that you take or the specialized physicians that you see to manage a condition. It’s a part of who you are. However, disability is not the only identity you have; of course, you may also identify by gender, race, height and many other attributes. All of your unique individuality is important and has value.

watercolor graphic of wheelchair user ADA symbol. July is disability pride month

Disability Pride Month

In alignment with the July 1990 passing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability month is celebrated every year in July. This observance aims to promote visibility and mainstream awareness of the positive pride felt by those within the disability community. Using bold images and powerful words, disability pride awareness events and parades strive to educate and empower people with and without disabilities. You see, pride comes from celebrating the unique experiences that we have as people with differing abilities and the contributions that we offer society.

The first ‘Disability Pride Day’ was held in Boston in 1990, and the first U.S.-based Disability Pride Parade was held in Chicago in 2004. Today, disability pride parades are held nationwide, such as in Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio and Madison, among other locations. These events celebrate disability culture with the intention to progressively influence the way civilization thinks about and/or perceives disabilities – with the ultimate goal to put an end to stigmas surrounding disability.

Ancillary movements have also developed. For example, in 2005, Autistic Pride Day was established to heighten acceptance and understanding of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This disability observance is now held annually on June 18.

“There is a tremendous need to create a counter-culture that teaches new values and beliefs, and acknowledges the dignity and worth of all human beings. Disability pride is a direct response to this need.” – Sarah Triano, National Disabled Students Union.

graphic of diverse group of people, including an amputee, wheelchair user and blond person with a service dog

Disability Pride Matters 

Sadly, because of misinformation and misunderstanding, people with disabilities are often not thought of as equals or valued members of society. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the prominent civil rights leader who helped champion disability rights, said, “As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free.” So, as long as people feel ashamed of who they are, they will never realize the true equality and freedom they desire and can achieve. That’s why disability pride matters. YOU matter.

Interested in more content like this? Read: 

Nancy DeVault
Nancy is the managing editor of AmeriDisability. She is an award-winning storyteller passionate about health and happiness.

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