July 12th, 2023
What do you think of when you think of the phrase Disability Pride? Many people would not think to combine these two words in the same sentence. Society tells us that the word disability is bad or undesirable. However, the word disability isn’t harmful or undesirable; it is simply a state of being. We all enter this world with different traits and attributes and are taught to embrace those differences. So, why are disabilities treated so differently? They shouldn’t be; it doesn’t have to be this scary or “less than” part of a human being. It is as simple as when someone is born with brown hair or blue eyes. Sometimes, people have disabilities.
Until July 1990, people with disabilities did not have federal protections against discrimination. President George Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability, just as other civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment, purchase goods, and services, and participate in state and local government programs (U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division, 2023). Before the ADA was enacted, people with disabilities were at even more of a disadvantage than we are today.
In 2022, about 21% of people with a disability in the U.S. were employed, up from about 19% in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2023).” Seeing those statistics in black and white is startling. Living with a physical disability, entering the real world was daunting. I assumed that checking that little box marked disabled wouldn’t be a big deal and that I should be honest and upfront because being disabled is nothing to be ashamed of or something I should hide. However, finding out that if I marked “disabled” on the job application, I wouldn’t get a call back became my reality. It was interesting when that little box wasn’t checked. I got an interview right away. Then I realized that I was up against something bigger than myself. I had seen and experienced it most of my life, but I thought getting a job in a helping profession would be different. It wasn’t. I still faced the unfortunate reality of being discriminated against even before I could show what I had to offer. You see, even with federal protections in place, people and places can still find a way to jump through the loopholes and not hire someone based on their own biases. I was fortunate to find jobs that have accepted who I am and value what I bring to the table as a disabled clinician. How are people with disabilities supposed to show what we offer if we are never even given a chance to be interviewed? I hope society will one day catch up and understand that those with disabilities have so much to offer this world, and we are an intricate part of what makes this world great.
We live in a world where we must adapt to an environment that isn’t built for us. We are taught to “fit in” as much as possible, not make a scene or cause too much disruption. That should never be the case.
Disability pride shouldn’t be celebrated one month out of the year. We should embrace and accept it every chance we get. It takes grit, perseverance, and strength to live in this world with a disability. We must open doors of acceptance, knowledge, and love for people to celebrate our differences. Here are some ways you can celebrate and support people with disabilities:
People with disabilities should be able to go out in public with the guarantee that there are reasonable accommodations. Sadly, that isn’t our world, so it is up to the person with the disability and their loved ones to help make the world as accessible as possible. Is it an ideal situation to have to advocate and plan every time you go somewhere? No, but this is where we are at as a society. Progress is being made, but we still have a long way to go. I remain hopeful that we one day be in a place where we don’t have to fight for simple pleasures, such as going to a favorite restaurant.
If you have a disability or know someone who does, take pride in it. If you are not disabled and are looking to be an ally to support those who are? Ask questions, be curious, and be open to a new world perspective. You never know what you might learn. Happy Disability Pride Month!
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