The month of July marks disability pride month, an international month of advocation, celebrating, and championing disability and diversity within our communities. Disability pride month allows for the creation of an international stage to discuss, share experiences, raise awareness of conditions and celebrate the diversity of our communities by solidarity and kinship. Through open and honest discussion between those within the disabled community and with abled-bodied persons, pride month aims to promote an active month of conversation to end outdated and obsolete stereotypes and typecasting. Bringing pride to being disabled. Common misconceptions presume that we are weak, vulnerable, and unable to contribute. This could not be further from the truth, we are thriving not surviving. Every month, especially July, we must celebrate our disabled pride and confidence for our differences. We must champion education, activism, enjoyment of life, and accessibility.
For a majority of those with a disability, their disability becomes a defining characteristic and a form of identification. This form of identification occurs in one of two ways, either voluntarily or by being labelled by another. Either way identifying as disabled person plays a key role in the formation of how one describes their culture, character, and community. Disability pride month strives to ensure that this formulation of one's identity is born from a place of positivity, confidence, and pride of one's difference’, moving away from the negative connotations from previous outdated and obsolete stereotypes and typecasting. Unfortunately both within the UK and internationally, despicable stigmas and stereotypes relating to disabled persons remain innately ingrained within certain individuals’ mentalities. That those carrying the label of disabled, carry the label of embarrassment and unfavourable differences, disability as a word in itself for too long has been used as an offensive, slanderous, ‘dirty' word. International acknowledgement of disability pride month, and quite frankly the general populous awareness that there even exists a disability pride month remains low, even within the disabled community itself. The level of respect, recognition, and attention that disability pride month deserves is arguably wildly below acceptable. However, as society moves forward and awareness and education grows, we are shifting away from this negative perception of what it means to be disabled, with the significance of July pride month and the invaluable role it has to play growing exponentially. Above all disability pride month, at its heart, allows for international governments, organisations, and individuals to be alerted and directed to observe the systematic ableism and discrimination which disabled persons still face today. Through rights protection and education, the barriers, perceptions, and avoidable challenges faced by disabled persons will be broken down brick by brick. However we must not rest on our laurels and rely on July alone, disabled and able-bodied persons alike must work as a united allied international community to spread positivity, hear our disabled voices, raise awareness and celebrate disabilities every month of the year.
For those who are unfamiliar, disability pride month has also had its own international pride flag since 2017. Designed by Ann Magill, the flag features a solid black background with a 5 coloured lightning bolt design running diagonally. This plethora of colours pays homage to the variety, diversity, and differences within the disabled community, the lightning bolt symbolises the challenges of navigating disability barriers, and the black background is dedicated to all those who have suffered from discrimination or have tragically lost their life to ableist violence. This disability pride month, as an international community we also pay celebration to the fantastic individuals who have come before us, who have fought hard to ensure the rights that we have today. And as we look forward to the future we also pay celebration to the generations to come and the work we are doing today to ensure the accessibility of their time.
Disabled pride is about celebrating, creating awareness, removing barriers, and reclaiming our visibility as a community in a populous where for too long we have faced being ostracised, vulnerable, lonely, isolated, and marginalised. July is an additional opportunity to champion the achievements of all individuals with a range of disabilities from neurological, hidden, physical, and mental health conditions. During July, and every month, we must hold our governments, organisations, and individuals accountable to examine innate restrictions to accessibility.
Disability pride month is at its core about reclamation. Reclaiming the word disabled and its meaning, removing archetypal negative connotations. Disabilities and differences are to be celebrated for the joy, diversity, and unique set of powerful attributes they bring such as resilience, empathy, and the ability to think outside the box. Not only during July, feel proud of your disabled identity, and reclaim your power.
Therefore I leave asking you this; this disability pride month, what makes you proud?
Written by Celia Hensman