For those that don’t know, July is disability pride month. I did touch on the topic last year, as it was the first year I had heard about it, with is pretty sad seeing as I have a disability myself. If you want to read about what disability pride month is, then head to that article. This year I’ll be talking about what disability pride month means to me.
I’ve mentioned my disability before in my sexy elephant post, but just to give my new readers a quick run down, I have Nemaline Rod Muscular Myopathy. It means that my muscles are weaker than everyone else’s. As a result, I use an electric wheelchair and a non-invasive ventilator (VPAP/BiPAP). I was diagnosed at 18 months old, so I really don’t know my life to be any other way. This means that my viewpoint on disability pride might be different to someone with an acquired disability or someone that is newly diagnosed. However, that’s what this month is all about, celebrating everyone’s disability story.
To me, disability pride month is about 3 things. Firstly, it’s about raising awareness. When you think about it, disability pride month is one of the few “month of/international day of” that isn’t covered largely by mainstream media. I see a lot of disability influencers posting about it online, but not non-disabled people. With disabled people often being disabled because the built environment around them doesn’t consider or adapt to their needs, this awareness is important. If you know me, then you know I always say, “those that know better do better”, so the awareness that comes from this month shines a light on how everyone can do better.
Next, it’s about acceptance, from both a disabled person and non-disabled person’s point of view. While I don’t have a non-disabled person’s point of view, I do understand that it can be hard to accept someone’s disability, especially if their condition is progressive. However, remember that they’re a person too with feelings, so shutting them out or ignoring them isn’t the right way to go. If they’re newly diagnosed and you’re not sure how to handle it, maybe reach out and see if they’ll answer your questions. While it’s not their job to necessarily educate you, this initial form of communication may help to get the ball rolling for you both understanding it.
From a disabled person’s point of view, it’s all about accepting yourself. This can be a long process for some. There are going to be some days where you despise your disability and other days when you accept it and that’s ok. Personally, it’s probably only in the last couple of years that I’ve featured my ventilator on my Instagram page. I figured that breathing is better than looks, so who cares what others think. However, I’m lucky that I have a very supportive network around me too that accept my disability and don’t treat me any differently, so that definitely helps. I’ve also noticed that growing my Instagram account has really helped to increase my confidence too and this has helped me to open up about my disability. Having that self-acceptance helps me to brush off the not-so-nice comments too. Acceptance, therefore, can help you deal with certain situations better.
Finally, it’s about action. Awareness and acceptance are nothing if something isn’t done about it. Disabled people tend to take a lot of action to celebrate this month, but if you’re a non-disabled person then there are quite a few things that you can do. Sharing disabled people’s content on social media is a great and easy place to start. Similarly, if you’re in a restaurant or a shop that has an accessibility issue, raise it with a staff member, because maybe they weren’t aware. Lastly, maybe you have a big platform whether that be a blog, social media platform or a journalist. Invited disabled people to do a takeover or interview us so that we can get our message out there. Again, this links back to the saying “those who know better do better”. You don’t have to have a disability to be a disability ally.
So, that’s what disability pride month is to me. It’s about awareness, acceptance and action. I hope in years to come disability pride month gains more coverage because that’s the only way we’re going to break down those barriers.