Celebrated annually during the month of July, Disability Pride Month is an opportunity to promote visibility and mainstream awareness of people with disabilities and a chance to honor the history, achievements, experiences and challenges faced by this community. One key challenge is the ongoing fight against systemic ableism, defined by Merriam-Webster as the “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27% or about one in four adults in the United States have some sort of disability. A recent U.S. Census Bureau brief indicated that in 2019, more than 4% of children in the U.S. have a disability, which is over 3 million kids. Also, disabilities in U.S. adults vary by race/ethnicity; the highest rate of disability among racial groups is American Indians/Alaska Native, with 30% of adults and nearly 6% of children having a disability.
Disabilities can be visible or go unseen and may impact mobility, hearing, vision, daily living activities such as bathing or cooking, independent living such as doing errands alone, and cognition such as difficulty concentrating to an extent that is considered serious.
Because of these disabilities, many people have been marginalized and misunderstood for generations. It is important that all disabilities and their intersecting identities be acknowledged, valued and respected. One way to do that is by learning about disabilities and taking action to support people with disabilities during Disability Pride Month.
Learn the history.
Although Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, was established to prevent discrimination for people who have disabilities, it was specific to programs and activities that received federal funding or oversight from an executive agency. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. This landmark law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities as it relates to employment and access to public services, such as health care, education and many forms of public transportation. That same year, the first Disability Pride Day was held in Boston. The first official celebration of Disability Pride Month occurred in July 2015, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the ADA. In addition to these celebratory dates, the first U.S.-based Disability Pride Parade was held in Chicago in 2004. Since then, Disability Pride Parades have been planned in other parts of the country and some at other times of the year. These events not only serve as celebrations of the disability community and its culture, but also are intended to motivate people to think differently about how disabilities are viewed by society and the stigma that is often associated with them.
Learn the terminology.
While some people prefer person-first language such as “people with disabilities,” others advocate for the use of disability-first language such as “disabled person,” as a means of empowerment and way to live authentically with a disability diagnosis. However, some people believe disability-first terminology and the use of phrases like “differently abled” perpetuate stigma and the idea that disability is synonymous with “less than.” Although people with certain types of disabilities, such as hearing impairment, are generally OK with being referred to as Deaf or deaf, others prefer not to be defined by their disability. “Wheelchair users” prefer to be identified as “people who use wheelchairs.” When in doubt about which terminology to use, ask someone how they would like to be referred to.
Read books on disabilities and those written by disabled authors.
There’s no better way to learn than from the people who are directly impacted by a disability. Many public libraries and bookstores offer curated collections of books written by and about people with disabilities. The National Endowment for the Humanities also offers a collection in its Virtual Bookshelf: Disability Pride Month.
Follow disability activists.
On social media and through blogs, you can obtain a deeper understanding about the challenges faced by people with disabilities, while also learning about people on the front lines who are advocating for increased visibility, policy change, accessibility improvements and social acceptance on behalf of the disability community.
Get out and advocate.
Contact your elected officials about an amendment to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which prohibits discrimination against passengers with disabilities on commercial flights. The amendment, the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2021 (ACAAA), has been proposed to “strengthen accessibility in air transportation” for individuals with disabilities, including legislation to facilitate filing a grievance if discrimination based on a disability has occurred.
Support Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access (IDEA).
All aspects of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access are relevant for people with disabilities. Also, because disability is a culture in itself, disability should be included in trainings for cultural competency and when practicing cultural humility. Disabilities are diverse in nature and type as well as within individuals with the same type of disabilities and has important implications for how people with disabilities procure food, prepare food, and eat and drink.
Work with an RDN.
Whether you are looking to support your personal health or your family's health, use the Academy's Find a Nutrition Expert tool to locate a registered dietitian nutritionist offering in-person or telehealth services in your area. For nutrition and dietetics practitioners who have a disability, work with patients and clients with disabilities, or are interested in learning more about how disabilities may impact nutrition, consider joining the Academy’s Disabilities in Nutrition and Dietetics Member Interest Group, launched in June 2023.
Check to see if your employer is disability inclusive.
The National Organization on Disability provides an employment tracker to anonymously assess benchmarks on disability inclusion. Talk with your employer to see where your company is on the scale and find solutions to help reach these benchmarks.
Hire people with disabilities.
People with disabilities work in all industries and possess many of the same skills as people without disabilities. Yet, in 2022, the jobless rate for people with a disability was about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consider hiring or helping a disabled person get hired.
Disability is present everywhere and at every intersection of life. This means that it will impact all of us at one time or another. Choose an organization and be part of the fight for disability rights.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)
- National Park Service
- The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
- U.S. Department of Labor
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Note: This list is not all-inclusive. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has not participated in the development of the sites listed and does not exert any editorial or other control over the sites or content.
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