Disability Pride is a two-way street (or is it more like a freeway)?
July is Disability Pride Month, and you’re probably thinking, “oh great, another article by a ‘proud disabled person’”, and you’re right. This is another post adding to the discussion, but I’m doing so to highlight the complexities that come with Disability Pride and why this month is so important. Disability Pride Month is an American thing correlating with laws passed around the rights of disabled Americans, but over the years, it has become a time where disabled people around the world come together to celebrate and discuss the issue of disability pride. I recently shared a quote about disability pride by one of my favourite disability activists, Stella Young — her work helped me in becoming the proud disabled woman I am today. One of the comments was a person with a disability commenting on how their disability does not define them, which is the point I wish to explore in this article.
While Disability Pride month is going to mean something different to every person, for me, Disability Pride month, along with the label of a disabled person, is a celebration of my being disabled in a world which is still full of ableism (disability discrimination both direct and indirect) inaccessibility and exclusion. It’s not my disability/condition I’m proud of, as to be proud of a congenital abnormality of the spine/neural tube defect sounds ludicrous. My pride as a disabled person is of a political nature.
- I am disabled by a society still learning to include people with disabilities at all levels and facets.
- I am disabled by a system that fails to consider people with disabilities in natural and pandemic disaster plans and associated reporting.
- I am disabled by a system that wants things to go back to how they were before the pandemic, removing some things that have made life as a disabled person more inclusive.
While I could think of many more examples, I think you get the point by now.
I also celebrate disability pride because, for far too long, I did not. As I’ve discussed in the past and is evident in the image included in this article, my experience of being a disabled person growing up was one of shame and internalised ableism. It is activists like Stella Young and Laura Hershey, along with many people in the disability community I’ve had the pleasure to learn from, who have taught me to be proud. I highly recommend checking out “You Get Proud by Practicing” by Laura Hershey if you haven’t read it yet: http://www.thenthdegree.com/proudpoem.asp.
However, disability pride isn’t just up to disabled people, things like access and inclusion have a huge impact on disability pride. When you’re included in something as you are, you get proud (to borrow from Laura Hershey). You get proud when you’re able to go somewhere or experience something you’ve long heard non-disabled people talk about because it’s finally been made accessible for you, or they’ve thought of someone like you in the planning process.
The way disability is discussed also impacts disability pride. A recent survey about disability employment in Australia found half of the managers and HR professionals say their organisation has never hired a person with a disability, and nearly one in 10 admit they wouldn’t consider it, you can read the full article from The Guardian here. These conversations remind people with disabilities we still have a long way to go to be considered equals. We are decades behind both the feminist movement and Indigenous rights in Australia, and this thought is beyond exhausting, bringing feelings of shame to the surface for many.
In closing, Disability Pride is a statement, a journey and one we all experience differently and celebrate for numerous reasons, and I’m proud to be a disabled woman whose hope it is that disabled children coming after me are able to be proud of their identity without having to question their place in society.
If you’re a person with a disability or disabled person, what makes you proud?