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Recognizing Disability Pride Month
LaJeune Adams

By: LaJeune Adams on July 4th, 2024

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Recognizing Disability Pride Month

Diversity & Inclusion

Disability Pride Month occurs in July to mark the anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act. This legislation was passed on July 26, 1990. It celebrates progress in ensuring equal opportunities, access and inclusion for people with disabilities in employment and public spaces.

The first celebration was a Disability Pride Day in Boston in 1990. Chicago hosted the first Disability Pride Parade in 2004. "Disability is a part of the rich tapestry of human diversity and something that nearly all of us will experience at some point in our lives," explains Jackie Dilworth, communications director at The Arc of the United States, a disability rights organization. 

Disability Pride Month Flag

Diversity Month Flag black background with red, yellow, white, blue and green diagonal stripes

Like other recognized events, Disability Pride Month is celebrated with a flag. The original disability pride flag featured brightly colored zigzagging stripes over a black background. It was created in 2019 by writer Ann Magill, who has cerebral palsy. She explained in an interview, "My first design idea was to make the stripes zigzag, to represent how disabled people have to maneuver around all the barriers we face. We have to go this way and then we have to go that way, and then we have to go this way and then we have to go that way. And that’s how we move through the world." However, the zigzag design created a strobe effect on computer and phone screens. This effect could potentially worsen symptoms for individuals with visually triggered disabilities including epileptic seizures and migraines. In 2021, Ann released a new pride flag. She based this flag on feedback from people within the disabled community, creating a more inclusive and accessible banner for the disabled community.

The colors on the disability flag and their representations are:

  • The faded black background represents "the anger and mourning over the eugenics and the neglect that disabled people have to fight against."
  • Red represents physical disabilities.
  • Gold is for neurodiversity.
  • White represents invisible disabilities and disabilities that haven't yet been diagnosed.
  • Blue stands for emotional and psychiatric disabilities, including mental illness, anxiety and depression.
  • Green is for sensory disabilities, including deafness, blindness, lack of smell, lack of taste, audio processing disorder and all other sensory disabilities.

2024 Disability Pride Month Theme

The 2024 Disability Pride Month theme is “We Want a Life Like Yours.” This theme reflects the disability community’s dreams for life experiences that they are too often denied. There are many stories of people with disabilities thriving as students, employees, leaders and engaged members of their communities and families.

Like everyone, those with disabilities want to be included. This begins with acknowledgement, understanding and embracing the widespread nature of disability. Disability touches every demographic category: gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. It impacts most people eventually through accident, illness or aging. Certain disabilities are obvious because they require a wheelchair or have noticeable physical attributes. However, most disabilities are invisible. These include those related to learning, attention, mental health, or chronic pain. Many people with invisible disabilities are still “in the closet” due to stigma.

Woman in a wheelchair playing tennis

Language Matters

To foster the 2024 theme “We Want a Life Like Yours,” ensuring that those with disabilities feel included is important. Here are a few suggestions on how to foster a sense of inclusion:

Use appropriate language and etiquette. Two good rules are 1) to always err on the side of language that does not paint disability as inherently negative, and 2) “Ask the Person.”

Refer to people respectfully and how they want. For example, many people with disabilities prefer “people-first language.” This respects human beings and their strengths, rather than defining them by their disabilities. An example of people-first language is referring to a child with Down syndrome by his/her/their name, not the “Down syndrome kid.” Just as you may ask people for their gender pronoun preferences, you should ask people with disabilities how they prefer to be identified.

Use the word “disability.” Terms like “physically challenged,” “special” and “differently abled” are seen by some as patronizing. 

Tips on using inclusive terminology include:

  • People without disabilities are not “normal.” Saying “normal” implies that people with disabilities are “abnormal.”
  • Treat adults with disabilities as adults. Baby talk is not appropriate.
  • Speak directly to people with disabilities, not to their aide or sign language interpreter. Talk at eye level. If necessary, sit in a chair to be on the same level as a person who uses a wheelchair.
  • Listen patiently and attentively to a person who has difficulty speaking. Do not try to finish their thoughts for them.
  • Remember that a person’s mobility equipment is part of their personal space. Don’t move a wheelchair, cane or scooter without their permission.
  • Not all disabilities are visible or apparent. This does not make them any less real.
  • Be mindful that people with cognitive or psychological disabilities have varying ways of coping with their conditions.
  • If you are unsure how to interact with a person with disabilities, ask them!

PSL is dedicated to making our communities inclusive and openly accessible to everyone. As part of this dedication, PSL understands that everyone is not one-dimensional. It is important to remember that residents and team members with a disability are first and foremost people with desires, talents, skills, heartache and loss, just like everyone else. There are similarities in all of us. What is important is to not focus on what a person’s visible or non-visible traits are. The importance is to focus on the interests you have in common.

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About LaJeune Adams

PSL’s Cultures and Values give assurance of our organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, through ensuring that all stakeholders feel that they belong. By lifting up voices and people, we will create an organization where all stakeholders feel that they are of value. As part of this commitment PSL formed Culture Champions within each community and location within the organization. Culture Champions are PSL representatives empowered with leading the movement of living and teaching our values while embracing DEI initiatives and encouraging others to do the same. As the Corporate Director of Education and Development and DEI Officer, LaJeune Adams is one of the PSL leaders that supports and works directly with the Culture Champions. LaJeune has worked with Presbyterian Senior Living for over 16 years in the roles of Human Resources Manager and Area Human Resources Director prior to her current role.