If there’s one thing you do this Disability Pride Month, please make it listening to disabled people. You may have spotted awareness-raising posts from disabled content creators on social media, many of which serve as a call to arms to creators’ mostly non-disabled audiences, asking them to publicly support and show appreciation for the disabled community in July and also beyond.
Even with the effort some of us put into telling the world about it, year on year Disability Pride Month tends to pass by largely unnoticed by those outside our community. There are a few parades that take place annually in the U.S., but Brighton is the only city in the UK to have held a parade, the last of which — thanks to the pandemic — was three years ago.
It is perhaps of little surprise, given the mistreatment of and lack of funding for disabled people under their rule, that lawmakers in both the U.S. and UK continually fail to acknowledge the celebration.
Another kick in the teeth is that, even in a month that is supposed to be about us, I haven’t seen any big brands include disabled people in their advertising campaigns. Based on my own experience and that of some of my peers, the amount of work I’m assigned in July is rarely more than any other month.
I would love to see more brands talking about disability pride and more non-disabled people mentioning it too.
All in all, it is incredibly likely a great number of you reading this are completely unaware Disability Pride Month even exists. But when the global disabled community is made up of more than one billion people, why wouldn’t people take it seriously? And why aren’t more people talking about it?
Disability Pride Month started with a parade in Boston, U.S., in 1990 to celebrate the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law that prohibits the discrimination of disabled people in the U.S. There is an equivalent law in the UK, the Equality Act (2010). There was another parade in Boston in 1991 and the main event moved to Chicago, where the first parade was in 2004. New York City has held annual parades since 2015.
Parades, like the one held in NYC, protests and other in-person events are unfortunately often inaccessible to many disabled people, especially in the wake of a global pandemic, which is partly why in recent years so many of us have turned to the internet to rally interest and share information.
“I absolutely do not feel as if Disability Pride Month is celebrated here in the USA,” says Dalyce Wilson (@black_bird_photo), a photographer living in California. “Even during [the current] Disability Pride Month, I personally have not seen the prioritization of centering us in policy change, in the media, or city planning to create more access and ease for us.”
The lack of acknowledgement of Disability Pride Month and meaningful support for our community extends globally. Not only are national and local governments quiet, at last count, I noted just two major brands that have posted messages of solidarity for disabled people on their social media, one of which was Starbucks, who vaguely stated that they are working with a non-profit supporting the Deaf community.
“I would love to see more brands talking about disability pride and more non-disabled people mentioning it too,” said social media activist Disabled Eliza (@disabled_eliza). “A lot of people think it only includes LGBTQ+ people [because of the ‘pride’ connection] but that isn’t the case. It just isn’t spoken about enough!” Are people really confused about what Disability Pride represents — or is the feeling around it just one of indifference?
Content creator and model Shelby Lynch (@shelbykinsxo), said, “I feel like it’s celebrated by the disabled community but nobody else really cares about it. 99 percent of brands don’t post about it or they won’t pay disabled people to make content.”
With the popularity of social media used as a platform for social justice discourse, this year a number of disabled activists used their digital spaces to share what Disability Pride Month means to them in the hope that it will rally more support for our community.
Dalyce said that to her disability pride means, “that anyone who is not able-bodied embraces their unique circumstances and embodies innovation to live their best life.”
“This term ‘disability’ coupled with ‘pride’, is sometimes seen as oxymoronic by able-bodied people and that alone makes me even prouder to call myself disabled and proud [..] If it were not for my Diabetes, I would not be the advocate I am today,” says Dalyce “I would not know how to be an ally to others. I simply would not be me.”
Eliza added, “[to me] it means, love, acceptance, protest, access, support, rebellion, fight, rights. It is a time for the community to come together to talk about being disabled and to share our experiences.”
This term ‘disability’ coupled with ‘pride’, is sometimes seen as oxymoronic by able-bodied people and that alone makes me even prouder to call myself disabled and proud.
For me, this month is about disabled pride and so much more. It’s about expressing and celebrating our disabled joy. It’s a time to educate people about disability rights and history. It should also be an opportunity, at bare minimum, for disabled people who struggle to find employment to gain work they feel passionately about.
The lack of support for the disabled community through the pandemic, from the out of touch with reality governments to people in everyday society, has underlined how much progress needs to be made to get the world to actually notice, celebrate and fight for our rights and our freedom.
Are you feeling ready to join the fight for equity for disabled people in your country? Here’s some things you could do:
Follow disabled content creators on social media to keep abreast of the issues disabled people are facing
Look out for petitions, marches and events that support disabled people and our rights and attend if feasible, or share with others that might be interested
Tell your friends and family about things you’ve learned
Find out about local community organisations supporting disabled people and see how you could get involved
Write to your MP often to let them know about key issues disabled people in your community face
The majority of people become disabled at some point in their lives, either through old age, accident or the late onset of disability. Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we as a society embraced the disabled community a bit more? It feels at odds that we have to keep telling people to care about us in the hope that they will listen.
I hope next year we see a marked uptick in public interest in Disability Pride Month, but more than that, I hope we see more of an invested interest in improving socioeconomic conditions for disabled people around the world.