Happy Disability Pride Month!

Whether you live with a disability yourself, or are an ally, I’m so glad you’re here!

This is a time not only a time for celebrating the achievements and contributions of disabled individuals, but also for remembering how far we still have to go in the fight for recognition and equality. A prime example of this is the fact that despite first appearing in 1990 (to commemorate the passing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act), Disability Pride Month still remains largely unknown to non-disabled people. I’m sad to say that I didn’t even know that this time of recognition existed for our community until two years ago, when I became more involved in the online disability space.

This month is nothing if not a catalyst for further progress, so what better opportunity to launch the second installment of ally’s toolkit, this time focusing on the ways in which allies can support and participate in Disability Pride!

So without further ado, here are five ways you can celebrate Disability Pride Month as an ally:

1. Identify yourself as an ally

Wishing your disabled friends a happy pride month and/or making a public post about your support for this movement not only let’s us know that you are a safe person for us to talk to, but can also help popularise this celebration as a whole and make more non-disabled people aware of the ways in which the disability community is still fighting for recognition and equality – bonus points if your post includes the disability pride flag!

An image of the disability pride flag -  a black rectangle with five coloured stripes cutting diagonally across it.

The different colours on the disability pride flag represent the diversity of our community. Red represents physical disabilities, yellow represents neurodivergence, white represents invisible and undiagnosed disabilities, blue represents emotional and psychiatric disabilites, and green represents sensory disabilities. The black background represents our communtiy’s dark past with ableism, eugenics, negligence and violence, as well as mourning those we have lost to these different forms of discrimination. The coloured lines cut through this background diagonally as a tribute to the creative ways that disabled people navigate the obstacles that society places in their way. These lines were originally portrayed as a zigzag, however, this was later updated so as not to aggravate symptoms such as migraines and seizures when the flag is viewed on a digital screen.

2. Listen and learn

This is perfect time to make an extra effort to listen and learn from disabled people. This could mean initiating respectful conversations with your disabled friends about what still stands between them and their best life, and the types of discrimination that they face. It could also mean reading books about the disabled experience and/or the different theoretical models of disability (eg. social, medical etc.)

Examples include: Demystifying Disability By Emily Ladau, Disability Visibility by Alice Wong, Disability Studies: A Student’s Guide By Colin Cameron, and The Body Nobody Believed by Isobel Knight.

It’s also a great idea to follow disabled content creators from different backgrounds so that you have a steady stream of learning all year round and readily have access to disabled perspectives when new issues/events arise that affect our community.

You are absolutely spoiled for choice in this regard. I love so many creators on Instagram and this only a small cross-section of people who create different types of disability content to get you started: @me._and_more @chronicallyjenni @erin.claiming_disability_llc @adisabledicon @crutchesandspice @therealsteffig @theafricansunflower @disability_visibility @autistic_advocate_for_crohns @nisshadav @maggie.writes @pacingpixie @thepotsabilities @fourmorespoons @microcatmachine @donutclown @thec_spot_ @alilbitofaith @milkchocolateonwheelz @theemptyuterusclub

3. Embrace accessibility

There are several small and achievable ways that you can be more courteous and inclusive towards disabled people in both professional and social contexts. Examples include: adding features such as alt text, captions and good colour contrast to social media content, supporting accessible venues, supporting work from home, hybrid or flexible work policies, respecting health and hygiene protocols such as masking, and above all, upholding a supportive and informed environment where people are willing to learn and adapt to the needs of different types of people, and call out any discriminatory behaviour. (Of course these are just some examples, accessibility is a huge and diverse topic in itself which will be the subject of more detailed posts in the future.)

A grassy, outdoor area with a purple sign that says "step-free route" and has the disabled logo on it.

4. Reflect on your unconscious biases

Do you ever ask disabled people invasive questions about their bodies or relationships that you would never ask a healthy person? Do you have a set idea of what a disabled person “should” look like, and doubt the legitimacy of anyone who does not fit that mould? Do you ever wonder if a stranger really “needs” that mobility aid or service animal? Do you sometimes use ableist descriptors like dumb, lame or retarded, or use mental health terms like OCD or Bipolar as casual insults?

Unfortunately, we have all been raised in a society that is inherently ableist, and even the most conscious among us sometimes slip up and accidentally engage in these discriminatory thoughts and behaviours. (This includes disabled people themselves, who often have a lot of internalised ableism to navigate!) The most important thing is whether or not we are willing to step up and learn from these mistakes, and Disability Pride Month is the perfect time to think about how we can do better.

5. Support disabled businesses

Finally, if possible, put your money where your mouth is by supporting disabled-owned businesses and gofundme or mutual aid campaigns that benefit disabled people. You can also support these projects in non-monetary ways, for example by following and sharing their content on social media. I may be biased, but I think you should start by following the crew and I over at Wishbone Words– where we spotlight disabled and neurodivergent creators 😉

Spoonie Sister Shop is one of my favourite disabled-owned brands 🙂

I hope these ideas have been helpful. Being an ally to the disabled community is not as hard or scary as many people perceive it to be, but it does involve continuous learning, empathy, and at times, uncomfortable self-reflection to understand the ways in which society is still not accessible or welcoming to people with different types of minds and bodies. It also means taking tangible steps to align yourself with our inclusion and eliminate the visible and invisible barriers that separate us. The fight for disabled rights is a long and challenging road, and persistence is far more important than perfection. Many of us will make mistakes on our journey to free ourselves from ableism, but what matters is our commitment to grow and work together to create a better and more equitable society.

If you have any ideas that you would like to add to the above or any further examples of resources or businesses that you recommend supporting, please drop them in the comments below.

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