At its core, Disability Pride Month is a celebration of disabled people as disabled people. It is recognising disability, not as something tragic or shameful, but as another aspect in the diversity of humanity. It is recognising that disabled people have unique points of view that better the world around them.
I use a wheelchair and I know first-hand why it’s so important to celebrate and recognize disabled people. When I first became disabled, it was other disabled people who helped me adapt to my new life, find new ways to navigate familiar systems, and see the joy and potential in my new life. As I try to become a mentor to other disabled people as well, it’s important to recognise that everyone’s experience with disability is different.
Disabilities range in type and intensity and include paralysis and blindness as well as many chronic illnesses and cognitive conditions that are often ‘invisible.’ Some disabilities vary in intensity or progress over time. This breadth of diversity makes it important to intentionally uplift and recognize all disabled people because no one person’s experience can speak for all of us.
The History of Disability Pride
As with all movements, it is important to understand and share the heritage and history beyond the month. Disability Pride Month is celebrated in July and began in the United States where it commemorates the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark piece of legislation that was passed in 1990 that created standards for accessibility in public spaces and prohibited discrimination against all disabled people.
Before the ADA, many disabled people either couldn’t access or had difficulties accessing employment, educational opportunities, or even the ballot boxes to vote. Despite these barriers, disabled people often worked together to devise creative solutions to the problems they faced. Some even created their own communities where they could take care of each other and organise for their rights.
The ADA’s impact stretched beyond the United States. It inspired similar legislation in several other nations, including the UK (with the Equalities Act 2010). As this global movement of disabled activism surged, the ADA then provided the framework for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by 185 nations since it was adopted in 2006.
COVID-19 has shown us all that when we design our systems to be accessible to disabled people, they also become more effective for everyone. Many disabled people had been asking for remote work options due to mobility limitations and other needs, but struggled to find employers who would work with them. When all of us were pushed to work remotely, the organizations that already had the infrastructure to accommodate it were the first to thrive.
Now, we’ve clearly seen that remote working options are incredibly helpful for parents, pet owners, and anyone who needs to get a load of laundry done! They’re also incredibly helpful for saving on overheads, recruiting top talent, cutting down travel expenses, and encouraging collaboration between distant offices.
What You Can Do
So what can your business do to recognise and commemorate Disability Pride Month?
As companies look to celebrate during July and beyond, they should consider how they can create a more accessible experience for their staff, customers, clients, and business partners.
Are websites easy to use and read, even for those who may require screen-reader assistance? Is packaging intuitive, safe, and easy to use, even for those who struggle with fine motor skills? Are events and activations planned and managed so that people who use wheelchairs can navigate the venue and the crowds safely and comfortably?
These questions are about investments, not mere expenses. When these considerations are made, you expand your market and create a more positive consumer experience overall.
Disability Pride Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the disabled people on your team and in your community. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on how you are continuing to recognize and value disabled people through your company’s work.
When you do this work, and design systems and products around the insights of disabled people, then you create something that works better for everyone.