* This post is written by one of our volunteer content creators. *
Before we discuss disability pride, we first need to look at how we define the word ‘disability’ as it’s used by so many people but often without a common understanding, for example, did you know that the ‘dis-’ in disability means ‘other’? The source I’ve chosen for a definition of disability is from the UN, as quoted below, but in summary, it states that ‘people with disabilities’ includes any person with a longterm impairment whose access to full and effective participation in society is limited due to access issues or barriers arising from their impairment:
"[people with disabilities include] those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others."
This definition supports The Social Model of disability which is the predominant way in which disability is viewed in the UK and is widely used by the disabled community internationally. * (This symbol means there is more information listed at the end of this blog post.) The Social Model of disability separates a person and their impairments from the disabilities they may face because of the world around them, those are the access issues and barriers mentioned in the definition of disability. For example, if you’re doing all that you can medically to manage your health but when you go out people talk down to you because you’re in a wheelchair, you’re being disabled by their attitude, just as you’d be disabled by the environment if dropped kerbs were missing or your local shop’s front door was too narrow or had a step and no ramp.
The premise of The Social Model is that if every barrier were removed, physical, social, and attitudinal, we would all have equal access to the full and effective participation in society identified in the definition of disability, and therefore would no longer be disabled. This does not mean that people would be without pain or impairment, but that all their needs would be met such that they were no longer disadvantaged by society or the physical world around them.
The first Disability Pride march was held in Boston in July 1990 in celebration of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) being passed into law on the 26th of that month. The ADA was the first legislation worldwide that gave disabled people equal rights and protection against discrimination so the event in Boston was a celebration of the collective organisation of the disability community and their ability to bring about change by working together. They came out to celebrate together in very public places to show the city they were there and living independent lives of worth as they were so often tucked away in the fringes of society. * Many Disability Pride events have emerged since then; in the UK they began after the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) was passed in 1995, which was largely based on the ADA, and which disabled people had been organising and fighting for many years. *
So, what does Disability Pride look like today? One focus which is often not mentioned when people discuss Disability Pride, is that ultimately Disability Pride is about organising and making changes to the barriers we face by working together to campaign and keep up the fight until something is done about it. This can be done through supporting mainstream campaigns but also through organising with other disabled people to pull together as the voices of many are much more powerful than a single voice trying to be heard in a busy world where we’re already not part of the thought process.
The other key part of Disability Pride is about making our community visible to the world as we’re still overlooked continuously, even by the government, for example, disabled people make up the largest part of the population with a protected characteristic and yet when you hear lists of protected characteristics including race, religion, gender, etc so often disability isn’t even on the list, despite it having the same protections. So go out and make yourself seen, not so much because you’re proud to be disabled throughout this month, but to share that you’re proud to be a part of the disability community, that we exist, that we matter, that we’re valid members of society who have a right to live full and complete lives and that we will not be overlooked. It’s about making ourselves visible as a whole community, standing up together and letting the world know that we are not going to disappear, and we will continue to fight for equality, for access, for non-judgemental attitudes, and we won’t hide away whilst we do it. *