Disability Pride

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, was passed on July 26, 1990. Disability Pride Month commemorates its passage and honors the achievements and experiences of those with disabilities seen and unseen, cognitive and physical, who are all too often treated as “other.”

“Disability is a part of the rich tapestry of human diversity, and something that nearly all of us will experience at some point in our lives,” The Arc New York writes.

“It’s also a significant identity that defines how we experience the world. Yet people with disabilities have been marginalized and misunderstood for generations. All disabilities and their intersecting identities should be acknowledged, valued, and respected, and one way to do that is during Disability Pride Month.”

Let’s get to it!

How Well-Known Is Disability Pride Month?

It’s not nearly as popular as, say LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June. You’ll find local events scattered across the country, including parades; disability organizations honor it on websites and on blogs; law firms love to tout it; and there’s some media coverage. But let’s just say mainstream media is doing what it usually does when it comes to covering issues important to the I/DD community, which is to say, not much at all.

I did an online search for mainstream media coverage (2023) of Disability Pride Month, and here’s what I found. Of course, this is not a definitive list, it’s just one person’s hunt for articles. If you know of any others, please let me know here. (In 2022, most articles I found were posted when the month was almost over so, there’s time on their sides.)

  • New York Times: Not yet (See “Learn More,” below, for earlier, very good, articles.)
  • Washington Post: Not yet
  • USA Today: Well, it does have a bunch of links to products you can buy to celebrate the month, so there’s that, I guess.
  • NBC News: A super short piece, July is Disability Pride Month
  • ABC News: Our Chicago: Disability Pride Month from its Chicago affiliate
  • CBS News: This wasn’t tied to the month’s celebrations, but it did post a lovely piece that reinforced the need to see people with disabilities represented in the media Creator of 21Pineapples Breaking Stigmas
  • CNN: Not yet
  • MSNBC: Not yet
  • Fox “News”: Not yet

New York Celebrations

This is a short list; please look around for celebrations in your area!

July 16: Disability Unite Festival, New York City: Central Park Naumburg Bandshell

The fourth-annual free festival from Disability Unite and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities features music and art performances, and more. This year it will be held both in-person at the Central Park Naumburg Bandshell and live-streamed.

Register here to attend

Disability Unite is an initiative of Project Access for All.

Disability Unite Partnerships

Disability Unite has also partnered with every NYC Borough president to bring a Disability Pride Month celebration to interested boroughs.

July 26: Disability Pride Parade and Festival, Buffalo waterfront: Pierce Lawn at Canalside

A celebration of people with all levels of ability in honor of the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Community resources across all of WNY will be in participation, food will be provided, and there will also be live music.

Disability Pride Celebration website

Disability Pride Month at New York Public Library (NYPL)

NYPL is offering events for all ages, including craft sessions, storytimes, sensory-friendly exhibition hours, comic book discussions, and more. Read all about it here.

Disability Pride Flag

The Disability Pride flag was created in 2019 by Ann Magill, a writer with cerebral palsy. The impetus, she told the Accessible Stall podcast, was a combination of the lackluster attention given to ADA celebrations on its 20th anniversary in 2010 and, tragically, the murder of 19 developmentally disabled people in a care facility in Japan in 2016. (The murderer, Satoshi Uematsu, reportedly said severely disabled people were harmful to society.)

The murders were “bad enough,” Magill said, but the tragedy “had dropped off from all major news before the evening cycle. … That’s when I was, gone beyond ‘I want a flag’ [to] ‘We need a flag. We need to be visible.”

The flag first featured brightly colored zigzagging stripes over a black background — representing the barriers people with disabilities must maneuver — but it visually triggered disabilities in some people.

Magill took suggestions and redesigned the flag, straightening out and lightening the color of the stripes, and reordering them to accommodate people with red-green colorblindness.

Each color represents a different disability.

  • Red: Physical
  • Gold: Cognitive and intellectual
  • White: Nonvisible and undiagnosed
  • Blue: Psychiatric
  • Green: Sensory

Learn More

PBS has a  collection of documentaries related to Disability Pride Month and the passage of the ADA: Disability Pride Month and the Disability Rights Movement

The New York Times, in honor of the ADA’s 30-year anniversary, published several great pieces in 2020:

And here’s a history of Disability Pride events out of the University of Washington.

Image: Ann Magill via Wikimedia Commons

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