As another LGBT+ Pride Month comes to an end and July is now underway, corporate activism seems to have well and truly dwindled. And, strangely enough, there is little to be heard on what has been celebrated since 1990: Disability Pride Month.
In fact, it is astonishingly difficult to find a single word spoken on Disability Pride outside of the community. After a month of deserved support for the LGBT+ community, voices are quick to fall silent for a cause just as valuable. The bitter reality behind this is that the majority of people have never heard of Disability Pride Month, or simply don’t care.
This isn’t to say that my personal experience with Disability Pride has always been positive. I first came across Disability Pride Month last year, and the concept felt like an oxymoron. The idea that I could feel anything but resentment towards the conditions I struggled with was alien to me, so pride was not exactly an emotion that came to mind.
I refrained from ever using the term “disabled”, and viewed my accommodations as “perks”. Shamefully, I thought a month dedicated to celebrating something so painful felt forced and unnecessary.
But over the last year, I’ve had a lot of learning experiences that have changed my perspective immeasurably. Using a mobility aid in a particularly turbulent period for my condition resulted in experiencing disability in a completely different light. Dealing with glares, degrading comments and intrusive questions on a daily basis forced me to confront my identity as a disabled woman instead of shying away from it.
I began speaking to other people in the community and realised how sheltered my view of disability was. Moreover, I was finally able to interact with people who didn’t live with shame, but with a sense of pride and community in support of each other. I realised the humiliation I felt was not because of how I saw myself, but of how I feared others saw me.
Disability Pride Month can be about more than individual liberation, too. It can be about foregrounding the voices of disabled individuals. Often, activism centres around insincere and ill-informed attempts made by non-disabled people, and little discussion is awarded to those who actually live with disabilities, their stories exploited for inspiration porn.
While sharing her experience with Disability Pride Month, freelance journalist Eleanor Noyce highlighted that many have not been given a chance to hear about it, including disabled people, arguing that “the media has historically not been very successful at reporting disabled stories.”
Rachel Charlton-Dailey, a freelance journalist and disability activist, also expressed frustrations with the inaccuracy of representation in the mainstream: “something which shows the realities of disabled life like Disability Pride isn’t of interest to non-disabled people unfortunately.”
The importance of occasions like Disability Pride Month lies in the opportunities it affords disabled people to share their personal experiences, and bring a much needed light to the issues the community continues to face.
In light of the last year, for example, not only have disabled people made up 59 percent of Covid-related deaths, but studies have shown that many others have dealt with significant neglect as a result of the pandemic. And despite Disability Pride Month giving ample opportunity to guide issues like these into the forefront of political discussions, they continue to be left in the shadows.
I’m saddened thinking back to the shame I once endured, too afraid to admit that disability is a part of who I am. My understanding of such a big part of my life was, in reality, sheltered and my ignorance was driven by this shame.
After coming across Disability Pride Month last year, I was compelled to discover more about myself and my identity, and the importance of spotlighting those who need to be heard. Disabled voices are valid and valuable, and they deserve to be treated as such. Hopefully awareness of Disability Pride will only continue to grow and make this a reality.