Did you all know that July is Disability Pride Month?
I really wasn’t aware of this either–and really didn’t even consider it until I took a tumble almost two weeks ago, twisted my ankle, and had to dig out my crutches that I used for support when I had my hip replaced. Maneuvering the stairs in my apartment, carrying things, walking to the grocery store, and enduring the stares from people who didn’t need crutches, as well as the well-meaning concerns of my neighbors, made me start thinking. Added to this, of course, I mislaid things and would have to get up and search. And of course, I dropped things and had to bend down to retrieve. And of course, I had to go to the bathroom at 3 in the morning and had to grope in the dark for my aids. Soon, not only did I suffer from a twisted ankle, I found that I had developed the ODTAA Syndrome: One Damn Thing After Another. It was at this point that I began to wonder how those of us who are always challenged deal with their challenges or disabilities, if you will, certain that they must every now and again ask God and or the fates to give them a break. “Tracie,” I told myself, “factual ignorance about society is not charming.”
And so I dug in and here is some of what I found out.
There are many different types of disabilities–let me just say right here that I truly dislike the word ‘disability’—it conjures up too much ‘less than or not equal to’ in my mind. Nonetheless, I learned that it is in fact, acceptable. There are many disabilities resulting from many different sources. They can be broadly capped under these 4: intellectual, physical, sensory, and mental illness.
Disability looks differently for everyone who experiences it; we cannot always see disability–sometimes it takes the form of a chronic illness. Sadly, oftentimes, people with disabilities are ignored, and their needs are invalidated because the world was not designed for them, and that’s why it’s difficult for them to receive access to secure housing situations, and job environments–critical issues.
All bodies are unique and essential. All bodies have strengths and needs that must be met.
The disabled are powerful, not despite the complexities of their bodies, but because of them. They are unique and essential to society. Even if that essentiality means that they make us ‘abled’ become more aware, and empathetic and do what we can to do away with the discrimination of and social prejudice against them and stop thinking that typical abilities are superior. You know, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people need ‘fixing’ and defines them by their disability and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations about them. Many of us ‘abled’ struggle on a good day, so I’m sure you can understand that these viewpoints are incredibly damaging to the self-esteem and mental health of these people.
I’m certain that I don’t need to point out that using disability as any kind of a punchline, or mocking people with disabilities is not only taboo, it is cruel. Do not ever forget that we are all challenged in one way or another. Every single one of us MATTERS. Every single one of us has VALUE.
We all have our own unique experiences of discrimination, oppression, or being othered, based on our race, gender sexual orientation, religion, disability, or you name it–in any event, what is certain is that anything that marginalizes people is not a good thing.
Let’s toss our mental crutches out the window and do what we can to ensure that people with disabilities are at the decision-making table. I’m certain we are able to do that. There’s room.
For my friends in Berlin, there will be a celebration of Disability Pride in your city SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2022 AT 2 PM: Pride Paraden –Straßenfest –Heinrichplatz.