July is Disability Pride Month, which many people may not know because it’s vastly underrecognized. And this year especially, it may feel difficult or inappropriate to celebrate disability pride after Pride Month, in the midst of a movement against police brutality and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this month, particularly with the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, it’s extremely important to consider that the disability community has also lost rights and needs to move into self-love. Many people still can’t access buildings, disability discrimination runs rampant, and a multitude of people regard their disabilities with shame. Many of us can’t go out in public without some pretty extreme reactions from complete strangers, and for those of us who can, it’s easy for guilt to crop up, even though “passing” as able-bodied can also have profound psychological consequences.
In the past month especially, I’ve struggled to be proud of my disability identity because it’s forced me to make some really difficult decisions. I’ve had moments where I’ve hated how easily I feel fatigued, how much pressure I feel to uphold able-bodied expectations, and how difficult it is to disclose that I have cerebral palsy in a predominantly able-bodied world. Even writing or speaking my own diagnosis sometimes makes me cringe. But while that reaction is valid in the context of my life, I shouldn’t have been put in a position to feel that way about disability in the first place. And it’s all too common for people with disabilities to experience the same deep-seated internalized ableism I routinely feel, which is why we, as a disability community, need to turn our shame into pride.
The lack of understanding and rights and the resulting shame the disability community faces all goes to show just how important Disability Pride Month is for people with health conditions. As people with disabilities, we deserve access, inclusion and empathy. We deserve to be proud not only of our capabilities but also of our struggles. So until the ableism in our world subsides and we can fully foster self-love for our bodies and minds, Disability Pride Month will matter just as much as any other movement for change.