June is over and yes I’m going to say it after all this rain – July best bring us sunshine, I can smell the sun cream, fake tan and the sizzling of BBQ’s as I am writing this, I’m excited – not just because of the hope of better weather, pub lunches and thought of melting and sweaty bum in my wheelchair – but because the month of July is Disability Pride Month.
I will start by saying that even as a disabled woman it was not until a few years ago I actually discovered ‘Disability Pride’ so I won’t give anyone a hard time for being unaware. So no it really wouldn’t surprise me that most people wouldn’t have heard, let alone that we have had our very own flag since 2017.
If this was a love Island moment around the fire pit, I’d expect the awkward silence confused faces followed with dramatic music.
It started as one day but since 2015, marking the ADA’s 25th anniversary, the entire month has become an annual event worldwide – encouraging space to end stigmas and promote disability as an identity, culture and to share the positive pride many of us feel. But also creates awareness of and challenges the systemic ableism and discrimination disabled and deaf people face.
The reasons why possibly one is it’s not commonly known, particularly in the UK, is that it with the Americans with Disability Act (the ADA) – the civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against disabled people, which was signed in July 1990.
Non-disabled people are asked to accept that disability isn’t a bad thing; it is a natural part of life and should be celebrated. All sounds remarkably progressive.
However, it would be incredibly ignorant of me to say that the ideology is simple. In fact quite the opposite – it’s complex and multifaceted.
Each and every person journey is different with an impairment or chronic condition – rather a rollercoaster of emotions, inner turmoil at times; confusing, lonely, exciting and empowering. Our stories are our own to tell when it comes to the idea of a ‘disability identity’ or having pride.
Some people feel the pressured of Society to accept their impairment or feel proud of it, who may not be happy with their condition and in turn, they feel guilty if they don’t. Others hate the concept; arguing that it is patronising and just reinforces the idea that we aren’t happy with who we are.
I myself have had a difficult love hate relationship with Muscular dystrophy over the years, from being in my early 20’s walking to wheels, to losing abilities like lifting your arm or putting your own bra on. It has given me some of my darkest moments I wished It was simply over!
You can’t hide with a physical impairment. You can stick out like a flashing neon light above your head when you are the only ‘disabled’ person in your friends group, work.
I would however still argue even if some don’t particularly like the concept of ‘disability pride’ surely having anything that encourages somebody to feel unashamed and unapologetic about who they are cannot be a bad thing.
Of course after many years of doubting, hating and tears I have finally realised just how flipping fabulous I am! ￼
Now, how the rest of the world chooses to see me doesn’t mean it has to be projected onto me or others with a physical impairment.
Most within society, have a real fear or feeling of uncomfortableness. When you have a disability you can’t be seen as anything else, you aren’t often seen as a human being with multiple identities. You become defined by your impairment or condition.
We aren’t born to be prejudiced it is unfortunately learnt behaviour. According to Scope’s 2018 report, one in three disabled people feel there is still a lot of disability prejudice in Britain, but only one in five non-disabled people agree. That’s a big difference in outlook.
Society’s been led to believe that anyone who is disabled must be a wheelchair user, given that’s the universal symbol of disability. When in fact there are many different forms of disabilities are visible and non-visible. as reflected in the flag; sensory perceptions, physical, invisible and undiagnosed mental illness are represented in different primary colours within a lightning bolt.
We need to find better ways of engaging with the disabled community, understanding and encouraging those with mental health issues or hidden conditions to feel comfortable disclosing their impairment without fear of judgment.
No one’s saying it’s not a minefield to get your head around, as humans we are made to make mistakes. It’s how you choose to learn from those mistakes and grow as a person. I am grateful that Disability Pride Month is gaining more traction each year and social media has allowed the message to grow without being censored.
As someone who fights for change, I use this time to challenge non-disabled people and invite a healthy discussion. I will fly the flag with pride if it means getting others to help fight for positive change.
They say you learn something new everyday and that what I’m hoping you will share with everyone you know far and wide because this month does not get the respect and attention it deserves.
Until next time – don’t forget to come and say hi.
Come give me a follow and say hi.