- Ben Elwy
If you didn’t know that July is recognized as Disability Pride Month, you aren’t alone. Although it is a meaningful occasion for people with and without disabilities alike, it’s not one that many people have heard of.
Disability Pride Month began 32 years ago, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. A few days later, the first disability pride events were held in Boston in celebration of the new civil rights granted to people with disabilities. Every year since, July has been celebrated as Disability Pride Month in cities across the United States and internationally.
At first glance, the concept of disability pride may seem strange. After all, while some people with disabilities are proud of their conditions, others are not – and however you feel is okay. Whether you’re proud of your disability will likely depend on the specifics of your situation, so only you can decide that for yourself. When I talk about disability pride, I don’t mean that you necessarily need to be proud of your body and mind.
Instead, the concept of disability pride represents solidarity within the disabled community, respect for those who have fought for our rights before us, and perseverance and resistance in the face of ongoing discrimination and inequality.
Personally, as someone who grew up without knowing many other people with disabilities – and those I did know were usually in special classes isolated from the rest of school – disability pride is about celebrating and making visible our existence in the world and finding community with each other so that progress against ableism can continue. For Melissa Shang, a fellow member of Harvard College’s Undergraduate Disability Justice Club, “disability pride means self-love and self-acceptance in a world that tells us we are less than.”
It is exciting to live in the state credited with holding the first disability pride events, and it is also an opportunity: to celebrate our diverse community of people with disabilities, which includes people with disabilities who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, people in the LGBTQ+ community, and many more. I am proud to be a member of the disability community and to work at an agency that celebrates our diverse community all year round.
Happy Disability Pride Month!
Ben Elwy is an intern at the Massachusetts Office on Disability’s Client Assistance Program (CAP) and a rising senior at Harvard College, where he co-founded the Disability Justice Club with his fellow students.