July is Disability Pride month. Disability Pride month is 31 years old, the same age as the landmark Americans with Disabilites Act. While the first time I heard about disability pride month was only a couple of years ago, I was excited it existed. I am autistic, mentally ill and chronically ill. Thus, I am disabled.
Since the initial Disability Pride Parade in Boston 31 years ago, disability pride is now celebrated across the nation. In 2019 Ann Magill created the Disability Pride flag. It is charcoal black color with five zigzag stripes: blue, yellow, white, red and green — running from left to right. The zig zags represent how disabled people move around barriers in creative ways. The five different colors represent different disabilities: Mental illness, neurodiversity, invisible and undiagnosed disabilities, physical disability and sensory disabilities. The parallel stripes stand for solidarity within the disability community.
Disability Pride month not only helps me in my own personal healing and growth, but a moment of reflection and gratitude. Early disability rights activists like those who participated in the Capitol Crawl or the HEW sit-ins — and the many more who protested by blocking streets, busting curbs and writing letters -- were the ones who fought for my liberty as a disabled person. Remembering early disability activists stokes my own fire for advocacy.
Through disability pride I have learned radical self acceptance and even appreciation for my autistic disabled identity. Disability pride makes room for sadness, grief, insecurity and anger. Not every moment needs to be viewed in sunshine and rainbows. Disability pride is both about embracing your disabled identity and or taking pride in living in a society built on systems of ableism.
Whitney Lee Geertsen, Ogden