Disability Pride Month: A time for celebration, resistance, inclusivity and awareness

“Have you heard of Disability Pride Month?”

A fellow member of the Disability community posed this question to me early last month. Although I have lived with an invisible disability for almost ten years, I was unaware that Disability Pride month is observed each July. Yet, my lack of awareness is one of several reasons why celebrating it is important.

So, what is Disability Pride? Answers to this question can be as diverse as the disability community itself. For some, Disability Pride is a joyous celebration of disability identity and culture. Simultaneously, this celebration is also characterized by some as an act of resistance towards systemic ableism. In this sense, Disability Pride can be seen as an opportunity to raise awareness of the discrimination people with disabilities face every day, including greater rates of poverty, homelessness, employment insecurity and intimate partner violence.

Disability Pride also invites individuals to recognize the monumental contributions of various folx in the Disability community. First wave Disability Rights Movement activists such as Judy Heumann, Ed Roberts, Brad Lomax, Johnnie Lacy and numerous others helped inspire and establish the Independent Living Movement and groundbreaking disability related civil rights.

However, in recognizing these individuals, Disability Pride is also about asking “whose contributions continue to go unrecognized in the disability community and what harm is caused when disability rights focus singularly on disability while ignoring other intersections of identity?”

As a community, we could not have arrived at a place of observing Disability Pride Month without members of the Disability community who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and/or as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Such folx eluded Disability Pride before it even had a name despite their marginalized positions in the movement.

Viewed in this way, Disability Pride can align closely with the second wave of the Disability Rights Movement related to the pursuit of Disability Justice (DJ), developed by Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, Stacey Milbern and others. As Sins Invalid (2020) – a San Francisco Bay Area-based performance project made up of queer, disabled, trans, and gender-nonconforming disabled activists - attest, “we can only truly understand ableism by tracing its connections to heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism” (p.2). To not do so will undermine the DJ principle of collective access and allow the movement to remain centered on the experiences of those who do not encounter numerous systems of oppression within the community.

The Disability Pride flag pictured above symbolizes the DJ principle of cross-disability solidarity, acting as a reminder of our community’s shared humanity and commitment to breaking down barriers inhibiting our participation and acceptance in society. In acknowledging this, I recognize that I hold privilege in being able to have celebrated Disability Pride Month this year, while many in our community felt unsafe to do so. We must hold space for these folx and take collective responsibility for working towards making the movement and broader society more inclusive and equitable for those of all identities with disabilities.

To learn more about the Disability Pride Flag designed by Ann Magill, read Respect Ability’s detailed description of the flag and its meanings.