Disability Pride Month: What Is It and How Can You Be an Ally?

Disability Pride Month is an annual, global event held in July and aims to celebrate individuals within the disabled community, as well as raise awareness. The term “Disability” covers a wide range of conditions that span across the physical, sensorial, emotional, psychiatric, non-visible, and undiagnosed disabilities. This year, the theme for Disability Pride Month is “We Want a Life Like Yours”, which recognises the opportunities and experiences often denied to those within the disabled community. In this article, we’ll explore and unpack more about this celebration and what you can do in the workplace to advocate for colleagues with disabilities.

The History of Disability Pride Month

You might not have heard much about Disability Pride Month before. Often, when we hear the word “Pride”, many of us tend to associate it with LGBTQ+ Pride in June. However, the two celebrations are not linked. Disability Pride Month began in 2015 in order to raise awareness and to honour the experiences of the disabled community. Disability Pride was initially celebrated following the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26th, 1990, in Boston, USA. On this date, activists marched to pass this act to prohibit discrimination against those with disabilities. Until 2015, Disability Pride continued to be celebrated on one day, but on the ADA’s 25th anniversary, the event has gone on to be celebrated as an annual event internationally.

5 Top Tips for Being an Ally

In your role, you might not be in a position to introduce workplace incentives, but that’s not to say you can’t be a powerful ally for your friends and colleagues with disabilities and help create a more inclusive workplace environment.

  1. Stay in the Know

One way of being a better ally is to educate yourself on your colleagues’ and others’ experiences. If a colleague feels comfortable sharing a personal experience with you in the workplace, engage in active listening to better understand them as an individual and how their experience effects them and their day-to-day life.

Showing empathy and a genuine interest in who they are in their entirety, as well as how their disability may or may not affect them on a daily basis, can better equip you to advocate for better support or go the extra mile to demonstrate that you value them as an individual, as well as a team member.

  1. Offer Support Where Appropriate

Active listening and staying educated can also help you to build better relationships with colleagues who may need to reach out to you for assistance, where necessary. This could be physical support in the office, or perhaps speaking to you about how to approach a senior member of the team for more help in the workplace. Be mindful not to assist without asking beforehand. It may feel helpful but it’s important not to assume that someone isn’t capable because of their disability. Remember, every disability and every individual is different. Just because one person you know isn’t able to do something because of an impairment, doesn’t mean the same applies to someone else with the same condition. Communication is key!

  1. Person-First

How you refer to individuals is the personal preference of that person, but it is widely accepted to use person-first language (e.g. “a person with a disability” as opposed to identity-first (e.g. “a disabled person”). Your colleague might be in a wheelchair, for example, but this doesn’t define who they are. If they refer to themselves as an “individual with a disability”, respect this by following their lead and mirroring their language.

  1. Your Words Matter

Using inclusive language when talking to or about your colleagues with disabilities can be important for cultivating a working environment where everyone feels respected and appreciated.

Many individuals with disabilities experience infantilisation (being spoken to and treated as though they are a child) because of their disability. This isn’t always intentional and is usually well-intentioned but can be frustrating, harmful, and patronising. While this month is to celebrate our differences, this doesn’t mean talking to those with disabilities differently from how you would speak to anyone else.

  1. For Managers

Whether it is known to you that anyone on your team has a disability or not, it’s important to create a safe and inclusive environment within your team for members to feel supported and able to voice their needs, as well as advocate for themselves and one another. This is an inclusive practise that covers everyone in the team, not just those with disabilities. Everyone should feel like they belong.

While Disability Pride Month is hosted in July, allyship and inclusion is a 24/7, 12-month-a-year endeavour. It is estimated that 1 in 5 of the UK population has a disability, with 80% of these being invisible*, so your advocacy could be appreciated more than you may know.

* Invisible Disabilities Week 2022 | DPT