The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26th, 1990. Cities like Boston started recognizing Disability Pride Day and holding Disability Pride Parades. This inspired New York mayor Bill de Blasio to create Disability Pride Month in 2015. This effort was a way to recognize the 25th anniversary of the ADA.
The Disability Pride Flag was created by Ann Magill, a member of the disability community. She wanted to symbolize various aspects of living with disability. While it might just look like a super cool design, it actually holds some powerful messages.
The black area of the flag represents individuals who have suffered from abelist violence or violence from protest. The zigzag demonstrates how members of the disability community have had to adapt to a world that doesn’t always adapt to them. It also represents people with disabilities combatting stigmas placed upon them. The five colors in the flag stand for multiple categories of disability: mental illness, physical disability, intellectual and developmental disability, invisible and undiagnosed disability, and sensory disabilities. The parallel stripes represent solidarity in celebration of the disability community and our unique differences.
The creation of the ADA and Disability Pride Month are incredibly important to anyone who has any type of disability. They should be important to individuals without disabilities as well because one could become disabled at any time. We also need abled allies. Individuals with disabilities often feel invisible and unrecognized in a society that is predominantly “non-disabled.” People with disabilities only want what everyone else does. We want equal access and to be seen, heard, and accepted for who we are.
In addition, there are quite a lot of stigmas surrounding disabilities. When people see the word “disability,” some believe that truly means “disabled,” “incapable,” or “not able.” However, that’s not how we view it. In fact, individuals with disabilities are just as important, able, and successful as those without a disability. Disability Pride Month allows us to start the conversations to break stigmas surrounding disabilities that we hope will carry far beyond July.
Read more: Why lowercase ‘d’ deaf culture matters
What Disability Pride Month means to the deaf community
Prior to the creation of the ADA, it was believed that deaf individuals could only function within the deaf community. Too often, we face stigmas, discrimination, and stereotypes as we live in a predominantly hearing world. We often encounter people who can’t speak our language or don’t make an effort to communicate with us. Some people even use archaic labels like “deaf and dumb,” thinking that deaf people can’t learn. Perhaps a dedicated month will spur some of us to help increase awareness.
We practice disability pride every day in a variety of ways, which also helps increase awareness! Some of us choose to use sign language as a primary means of communication. We may do so because it’s often a better mode of communication for us and we take pride in the language that defines Deaf Culture.
Some of us, like myself, personalize our hearing aids or hearing-assistive technology to show some self-expression. I’ve often heard people say, “Really, why would you want people to see your hearing aids? Wouldn’t you want them to be invisible?” My answer is always, “No, this is who I am and part of what makes me me. I’m never ashamed of my hearing loss. It’s something I’m proud of.”
“I’m never ashamed of my hearing loss. It’s something I’m proud of.”
We also advocate for ourselves and others in our community and even those in other disability communities.
There are many ways you can get involved and make a difference. First and foremost, never shy away from starting the conversation about disability awareness. When more people start these conversations, awareness increases and the process of shattering stigmas begins. Second, get to know people with disabilities. Too often, people look in the opposite direction when they see someone with a disability. We’re people too! Third, ask; don’t judge. Most of us are always open to questions about our disabilities. We would much rather you ask than judge or assume. We love when people make an effort to learn more.
You can also participate in a Virtual Disability Pride Parade on July 26 being held by Easterseals, a childhood education organization for children with disabilities. At the link, you can download and post posters using the hashtag #VirtualDisabilityParade and follow them on social media throughout the day as they flood their pages with all things related to disability pride. This is a perfect way to start spreading awareness!
Alone we are strong, but together we are stronger!