By Megan McQueen
For many people, finding community with others with a common identity is a helpful way to bond. A sense of camaraderie and pride can create an empathetic, vulnerable, and informative culture. Disability Pride Month has been celebrated in many forms in July after the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
One of the ten principles of Disability Justice that authors Patricia Berne, Aurora Levins Morales, David Langstaff, and Sins Invalid share is collective liberation. They ask, “How do we move together as people with mixed abilities, multiracial, multi-gendered, mixed class, across the orientation spectrum—where no body/mind is left behind?” If we use this question as our guide, we will move toward a community where all of us are valued.
As with most situations, follow the lead of the person you are speaking to or about. Some people prefer identity-first language (ex: “I am a Deaf person”), and others prefer people-first language (ex: “I am a person with autism”). There isn’t a right way or better way to describe people. It is dependent upon the individual’s preferences. If you are not in a situation to ask, the guidance is to use Disability-First language. We can all be more thoughtful about ableist language that has become part of common expressions people use and shift our words to be more inclusive.
Not Your Inspiration
Disability is normal. About 15% of the world’s population identifies as disabled. Most people will be disabled and caring for someone who has a disability at some point during their life. Stella Young convinces listeners that she is not inspirational in her TEDx Talk. She says, “Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.” Instead of thinking about disability as a problem, we can question what structures we can shift in our society to welcome and include everyone.
All of us – of all abilities – can advocate for inclusion. We experienced the power of connecting through technology during the pandemic. Disabled people asked for this option for years before we heard of COVID. Consider how we can create a workplace that is inviting for all abilities. Ensure that job searches include disabled people, and if not, ask questions about how your workplace can hire more people with disabilities. Consider how accessible your events are and work to make them more so. Including disabled peoples’ perspectives in our planning and feedback will help us all. Finally, celebrate the joy that disabled people experience! Attend parades or other disability pride month events. If nothing else, enjoy the Rollettes – a wheelchair dance team – videos.
In the wise words of Judy Heumann, “Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things needed to lead one’s daily life.” Let’s celebrate this month and work together to build a better society for all.
All the Way to the Top by Annette Bay Pimentel, Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, illustrated by Nabi Ali(Picture book)
Being Heumann by Judith Heumann
Demystifying Disability by Emily Ladau (Adult)
When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb, illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard (Picture Book)
Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.