Disability pride: how can we all be more inclusive?
Why we all should celebrate disability pride
Did you know that one in six people in Australia and over a billion people in the world have a disability? Disability is part of being human. Whether it’s from birth, or ageing, or somewhere in between, many people will experience a permanent or temporary disability at some point in their lives.
Despite this, people with disability continue to experience discrimination, negative attitudes and limited social support. According to the World Health Organisation, people with disability have poorer health outcomes, less access to education and work opportunities, and are more likely to live in poverty.
As a society, the way we think about disability needs to change. July was disability pride month in the USA. Although it’s not generally an Australian event, we thought it was a good opportunity to discuss what disability pride means. We hope that by continuing to talk about disability, we can increase inclusivity and decrease ableism in our community.
What is disability pride?
The disability pride movement began in the 1990s. The first parade was held in Boston in 1990 to coincide with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to the Inner West Disability Pride Festival, disability pride is about fighting against the ‘medical’ or ‘charity’ model of disability. This model is that disability is a problem that needs to be fixed or eradicated. It means the ‘problem’ is personal, not something society has to work on.
Alternatively, the society model of disability has been developed by people with disability. Instead of the problem being the disabled person’s issue, it’s society’s issue to change. For example, when a building doesn’t have a ramp or someone assumes a person with disability can’t do things, it is up to society to remove those barriers.
Why we need change
For too long, disability has been seen as shameful or something to be pitied because the person is seen as less able than others.
Current Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, knows this all too well. He told ESPN in January:
People with disability have always been viewed as second-class citizens compared to non-disabled people. It's just an unconscious bias that people have. "It's always been there. We don't get jobs, we don't get asked on dates, we don't get opportunities like other people because people think we can't do it,” he said.
This is called ableism. Disability pride is about shunning this negative view of disability and rejecting ableism. It’s about standing up and being proud of who we are and the impact we make in the world. This video from the United Nations Human Rights Office explains what ableism is and why we need to change the way we view disabilities.
What does inclusion mean?
There is a lot of talk of inclusion in disability circles. According to the Diversity Council of Australia, “inclusion occurs when a diversity of people (e.g. of different ages, cultural backgrounds, genders) feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation.”
According to the social model of disability, what makes a person disabled isn’t the impairment that they might have. It’s the way society hinders their independence. A person in a wheelchair wouldn’t feel as though their independence is as hindered if there were ramps and accessible toilets everywhere they went. They’d feel included in society and feel able to achieve their goals.
A person who is deaf would feel more included if there was a sign interpreter at the event they were at. A person with intellectual disabilities might feel more included if documents were written in an easy-to-read format they could understand.
An inclusive society is where we all feel like equal participants, regardless of our abilities.
How can we be more inclusive and celebrate disability pride?
The Disability Royal Commission released the Changing community attitudes to improve inclusion of people with disability research report earlier this year. It found that changes to attitudes need to occur in a whole range of settings, including our personal perceptions, our interactions between people with and without disability and in community, workplace and government settings. We know we need to change. So how can we all, as a society, work together to improve inclusivity and celebrate disability pride?
Here are some suggestions.
Follow disability leaders
There are so many influential disability advocates and leaders who are using their voices to educate Australians about inclusion and disability pride. This is just a handful to follow and listen to:
- Dylan Alcott
- Carly Findlay
- Jax Brown
- Kurt Fearnley
- Lauren Watson
- Ricky Buchanan
- Tim Chan
- Akii Ngo
- Julie Loblinzk
- Dan Graham
- El Gibbs
- Elizabeth Wright
- Disability done differently podcast
- One in Five podcast
- Mobility around Australia podcast
- Get real podcast
- Australian Society for Intellectual Disability Podcast: Research to practice
Support disability organisations and events
You could find what local community organisations support people with disabilities and find out how you can get involved. You can also buy from organisations that support the work of people with a disability. Businesses like byindeko.com, Bus stop films and Every Human are some of our favourites.
Keep an eye out for any petitions, marches or events that support people with disabilities. It’s a great way to learn more about the issues and lend your support if it’s needed. There are also plenty of events for the International Day of People with a Disability which takes place in December each year.
Learn more about inclusion
We love this video from Independence Australia about the A-Z of disability etiquette so had to share it here.
As a society, we can all do more to be inclusive. Think about the ways our workplaces, homes and community areas include people and if they’re not as inclusive as they could be, we can help make change.
Celebrate our differences
What makes you unique? What can you do that no one else can do? Everyone has something and we bet the people you know and love will know exactly what those special things are.
At Five Good Friends, we’re all about celebrating differences. We believe our differences make us all special. We hope by talking about disability pride month, we can work together to celebrate our differences, increase inclusivity and decrease ableism in our community.