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Disability Pride Month is Something to Celebrate!

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Disability Pride Month was first celebrated in July of 2015. It’s not a federally recognized holiday yet. So, you may not be as familiar with it as other culturally inclusive celebrations. But it really is something to celebrate!

July 26, 2022 marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark civil rights act was signed into law in 1990 by president George H.W. Bush. The ADA prohibits discrimination against Americans with disabilities. And as a result, it increased access and opportunities for disabled people. Especially in areas like transportation, employment, public accommodations, communications, and services.

We've made progress over the past thirty-two years since ADA became law. But we still have more work to do. And disability rights advocates are leading the way.

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    Why disability pride matters

    Emily Ladau is a disability rights advocate, author, and speaker. Her words really challenged how I thought about people with disabilities. So, I'll share the quote with you. Because I think it speaks directly to why disability pride matters:

    “We have been socialized to understand disability solely from a negative perspective. Disability is something that is wrong with a person. Disability is something that is bad, that happened to you, that we want to get rid of and eliminate from society. That’s what we’ve been told, but disability activists are saying, no, that’s not true.”

    So, celebrating disability pride helps change the way we as a society think about disability and disabled people. And that change moves us closer to equity and inclusion.

    Further, Emily was asked why call it disability pride and not disability awareness? She replied, “I often think of the term awareness as something that we use when we’re talking about something that we want to solve, a problem to be fixed. Disability is not a problem to be fixed, it’s a culture, it’s an identity. It’s something that so many of us celebrate.”

    It might seem like kind of a radical idea to celebrate disability. But it is just another dimension of diversity. We can embrace and celebrate that identity.

    Disability is not a problem to be fixed

    As long as we hold on to the belief that disability is a problem to be fixed or something that is wrong with a person, we reinforce discrimination. Because we're seeing disabled people as less than, if we see them at all.

    Emily Ladau wrote Demystifying Disability as a kind of handbook to help us learn about disability issues.

    • “Disabled people are the world’s largest minority, an estimated 15% of the global population. But many of us – disabled and non-disabled alike – don’t know how to act, what to say, or how to be an ally to the disability community”

    Alice Wong is an activist  who compiled a collection of essays by disabled people called Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the Twenty-First Century.

    • “One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others are less apparent – but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture.”

    Celebrate!

    Now that you know about the importance of Disability Pride, here are some ways you can join the celebration.

    • Find a virtual Disability Pride event to attend and include young people from your program
    • Talk about disability, normalize the topic to improve understanding and empathy for disabled people
    • Learn about the disabled community – there are tons of great online resources for you
    • Scan your work spaces and program materials to see what improvements you can make to address equity and inclusion for disabled people

    As you can see, celebrating with and for the disability community matters. And it is long overdue that we see all disabled people as whole just the way they are.

    About the author

    Barbara Van Deinse is the operations director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Barbara a question or share your feedback about this blog, email barbara@yipa.org.

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