Disability Pride Month is celebrated each July to commemorate the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was originally passed in July of 1990, so 2023 marks the law’s thirty-third anniversary. It still remains the cornerstone of U.S. laws regarding access and accommodations for disabled people.
This month, we all must strive to uplift the voices of disabled people as civil rights are attacked and some types of discrimination are legalized by the Supreme Court. These attacks especially impact queer disabled people as we struggle to access adequate healthcare while having our rights and autonomy respected.
Disability is not a Dirty Word
So often, able-bodied neurotypical people dance around using the words “disabled” and “disability.” In order to have honest discussions about access, support needs, and disability rights, we need to use clear and proper words. I am not “special needs” or “differently abled.” I am a disabled person.
Fighting for our Rights
Disabled people have fought long and hard for every single right we have gained in this nation. We will not stand down in the face of discrimination, hate, and ableism.
On March 12, 1990, hundreds of disabled activists gathered at the Capitol to pressure Congress to pass the ADA. These activists slowly and painstakingly crawled up the stairs of the Capitol building to demonstrate how it was not accessible to many people with mobility disabilities. Later, another group of activists chained their wheelchairs together inside of the Capitol in protest. 104 of them were arrested.
I have been asked why I constantly talk about disability issues. My response? I will keep talking about disability issues until I no longer need to plan every interaction around my accessibility needs.
Though the ADA provides us with many great protections, it is still constantly necessary for disabled people to fight on our own to ensure that the law is fully enforced. It is exhausting work, and we should not have to do it. However, taking legal action against every single ADA violation would probably overwhelm the courts fairly quickly.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to our culture around disabled people. Many of us have been questioned, accused of faking, and laughed off while seeking accommodations or trying to speak out about our struggles. Ableism is always prevalent in our society, and that is not something that can be legislated away.
Like Mattie, I hardly ever use my cane around my university campus. It would help me reduce pain and get around easier, but I am tired of the harassment, questioning, and pity. And often if people witness you using a mobility aid sometimes but not constantly, they are convinced you are faking because there is a lack of understanding about fluctuating symptoms and needs.
Disabled Queer People
Queer disabled people face both discrimination within the medical community and healthcare systems from queerphobia and exclusion from pride events due to inaccessibility. At the intersection of queerness and disability lies a group of people who struggle to access support for all aspects of their identities.
This Disability Pride Month, listen to the disabled people around you. You might even learn that there are more people around you with hidden disabilities than you think. Believe disabled people when they tell their stories, and listen to us about the systemic ableism and discrimination in our culture. Strive to change your language around disabled people, and recognize us as people with our own lives, stories, thoughts, passions, and ideas. We are not your inspiration porn. Tip-toeing around disabilities and disabled struggles helps no one. In order to fix this system, we need to acknowledge and educate about the flaws within it.
And to all the disabled people reading this, happy Disability Pride Month. Continue living your authentic lives, and remember that we are a strong community who will fight for each other when we have to. I hope that one day we can all live in a world where we don’t have to hide our disabilities and feel shame from using assistive technology and mobility aids, where we aren’t belittled for needing help, and where we are able to exercise our full autonomy.