Disability Pride flag

Disability Pride Month is celebrated every July to commemorate the passage of  the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To celebrate, local governments, organizations and more put on myriad festivals and parades, and hoist the Disability Pride flag in prominent locations.

The civil rights law, signed by then-President George H.W. Bush in July 26, 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.

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Its historical significance can not be understated. A major victory in the area of disability rights, it protects people with disabilities specifically from discrimination by state and local governments and employers, and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs.

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While the ADA applies to many areas of life, it does not cover everything. In some situations, disability discrimination is prohibited by laws other than the ADA. For instance, “while the ADA applies to certain types of housing (e.g., housing at private and public universities and public housing programs), the Fair Housing Act applies to many types of housing, both public and privately owned, including housing covered by the ADA,” according to ada.gov.

Disability Pride Flag

The flag you see being used is fairly new. 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

The Arc has a free resource, Why and How to Celebrate Disability Pride Month.

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.

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