As July has come to a close, be sure to remember Disability Pride Month and challenge yourself to learn more about disability and listen to disabled people. July is a time to acknowledge the immense contributions of the disabled community and challenge the able-bodied community to support accessibility for every individual.
July was selected as Disability Pride Month because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26, 1990, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. More recently, the Disability Pride flag was created in 2019 by Ann Magill, with each stripe acknowledging a different type of disability.
While Disability Pride Month is not recognized as a national holiday, many cities, including New York City , Chicago , and Los Angeles host annual parades celebrating disability. These are spaces that provide visibility, community, connectedness, and empowerment. They can also be spaces where creative problem-solving and coalition-building take place.
While there is a lot of joy, connection, and passion that comes out of the disabled community, there are many disability-related rights that have yet to be realized. Despite these challenges, there are rigorous advocacy efforts and community-building initiatives that take place globally. The campaign #WeThe15 seeks to partner the UN with sports organizations, the private sector, and the disability rights movements to increase human rights and visibility for people with disabilities. The Tanzania Albinism Society is advocating for inclusive health care and education for albino citizens. The government in Guadalajara, partnering with the World Bank, funded an upgrade of the city’s train system to increase accessibility.
While individuals and civil society are addressing accessibility needs, nation-states must do more to make their countries equitable for all members of society. Introduced in 2007, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has 164 signatories. While the United States has signed CRPD, it has yet to ratify it. The Convention seeks to advance rights for persons with disabilities and end discriminatory practices and policies. Nations must ensure that disabled people enjoy their right to life, and the Convention specifically mentions the advancement for women and children with disabilities. To address the inequities that exist regarding accessibility, the Convention calls for nations to identify spaces where barriers exist and to increase accessibility within communities.
In the United States, July is Disability Pride Month, and ratifying the CRPD would be a great first move for the U.S. to take action. Additional important advances include: improving our voting system to include access for all voters , abolishing ableist laws, redesigning spaces to enhance accessibility, and teaching disability history and intentional inclusion in schools.
There are several ways you can center inclusion in your life and how you interact with those around you. As a member of the disabled community, I recommend paying attention to policies and questioning how these policies might impact those with disabilities. For example, access to reproductive care , voting , healthcare , education , and housing are all areas that disproportionately affect those with disabilities, in addition to those affected by COVID-19 and lockdowns .
I also challenge you to think about disability more broadly—as visible, physical disabilities, but also mental, intellectual, and emotional disabilities. Additionally, advocate for inclusive work practices. Accessibility is more than just wheelchair ramps (though these are important). It could be image descriptions, captioning, and creating safe spaces that encourage self-advocacy. Think about how you ask and talk about disability, and ensure that you are creating spaces that encourage those with disabilities (seen or unseen) to feel empowered to advocate for their rights. Lastly, spread the word about Disability Pride Month and attend a parade, rally, community group, or read about the history of this largely forgotten group.