July is the official Disability Pride Month in the United States. But we’re here to pay tribute to the community daily by taking a deeper dive into the history of disability pride month. Why does it matter? How can you make a difference in the daily lives of people with disabilities? 

Understanding the design and history of the disability pride flag also provides greater insight and awareness about the community. Let us give you a deeper understanding of how disability pride evolved, and how discrimination against the community of people with disabilities affects us all. And, last but certainly not least, how technology supports digital accessibility and makes a difference in the lives of millions worldwide.

What is disability pride awareness month & why it matters?

Over 1 billion people comprise the global disability community, the most expansive and diverse minority group globally. People with disabilities of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, and socio-economic brackets seek inclusion. A way to feel a part of society from start to finish. Digital experiences are no exception. 

We all have a social responsibility to better our world and ensure inclusivity. And, we can all commit to celebrating the diverse backgrounds of people with disabilities in finding common ground. Start with creating fair game and equal grounds everywhere – off and online. That is the essence of Disability Pride Awareness Month. 

Let’s take a deep look at the history behind this celebratory occasion to understand how and when it was established. Starting with the story behind the disability pride flag, and unfolds to explain why this is a momentous event that’s recognized globally.  

Disability pride month: celebrate a universal cause

People with disabilities have faced social stigmas and judgment for centuries. Logically, the development and establishment of disability pride month is closely intertwined with the civil rights movement. This year’s Disability Pride Month marked the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It culminated decades of unwavering commitment by disability rights advocates.

Disability Pride is intersectional, recognizing how society treats people with disabilities. It’s a reflection on how other marginalized sectors within the community are also treated. This includes women, people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, and members of the LGBTQ community. Disability pride month events and the representation of the community within the disability pride flag, its design, and colors advocate for integration of the community. And to us, above all, barrier-free digital accessibility for everyone.

The disability pride flag: history & meaning

The disability pride flag and colors are a unique and direct representation of the community. It’s a symbol of inclusion, similar to the LGBTQ pride flag. The original was designed by Ann Magill, featuring a brightly-colored lightning bolt on a black background.

With feedback that the original colors could negatively impact people with epilepsy, Magill redesigned it with muted colors, symbolizing the diverse facets of daily life for people with disabilities.  

What does the disability pride flag look like today?

  • Charcoal gray background: In memory of the victims of ableist abuse and violence, including children or those killed, suicides, or individuals who suffered from negligence
  • Diagonal band: Cutting across the barriers blocking people with disabilities from full participation, integration, and inclusion in society
  • Red stripe: Physical disabilities (chronic pain/fatigue, mobility impairment, loss of limbs)
  • Gold stripe: Neurodivergence (autism, ADHD, dyslexia)
  • White stripe: Undiagnosed and invisible disabilities
  • Blue stripe: Psychiatric disabilities (depression, PTSD, anxiety, etc.)

The disability pride flag is now available in the public domain and is seen in celebrations and parades worldwide. Disability pride itself has entered the world stage, as you’ll learn from the insights that follow.

History of disability pride month: now a global phenomenon

The first Disability Pride Parade was in Boston on October 6, 1990. Over 400 people marched, wheeled, or drove to Boston Common, sparking the motivation for people to acknowledge that disability is part of the human experience. While the first disability pride parade was a success, it took a while for communities in other cities to host respective parades. 

Chicago has the longest-running series of Disability Pride Parades, starting in 2004. Other major U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and Buffalo, have organized at least two Disability Pride Parades since 2012. The movement has also spread across the Atlantic, with Brighton, England, hosting its first event in 2017.

Disability Pride Month is symbolic. People with disabilities are also people with abilities. They’re proactive members of society, working tirelessly to break down all barriers that stand in the way of full inclusion. Fortunately, numerous major U.S. cities hosted 2023 celebrations to attend. 

Notable 2023 Celebrations Included:

  • New York: Disability Unite Festival
  • Pennsylvania: Disability Pride PA
  • Illinois: Disability Pride Parade 
  • Missouri: FestAbility: A Celebration of Disabilities

The ADA: impact on disability pride awareness month

Our global population is gaining awareness and celebrating people with disabilities, the diversity of experiences, and integration in society. Signing of the ADA provided a rallying point for the community to demand full inclusion in society. The ADA lays out provisions for increased accessibility to physical infrastructure. While it also encourages employers to ensure work environments accommodate individuals with disabilities – from wheelchair ramps and special treatments, to service animals. 

The civil rights of people with disabilities are also protected within the ADA to prevent discrimination in the workplace and overall.

With the dedication of activists advocating for people with disabilities, a public campaign forefronted critical rights of the community. This led to the establishment and implementation of the ADA and its laws. 

The Capital Crawl was a catalytic event on March 12, 1990, uniting roughly 1000 members of the community of people with disabilities. They made their way up the stairs of Capitol Hill crawling or moving with mobility aids they depended on set aside, like wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and others. It was a clear and dramatic statement, demanding that the U.S congress pass the ADA. In July of 1990, the bill was passed.

More recently, the ADA is interpreted to include digital accessibility, a critical element of user experience to ensure inclusion of anyone engaging with online environments and digital assets.

What is Ableism & why is it important in the history of disability pride month? 

The history of disability pride month is traced back and was established to celebrate humanity, the community of people with disabilities, and their contribution to society. Ableism at its core is a systematic means to dehumanize people with disabilities. It’s a movement and thought system creating stigmas that define members of the community as inferior or less capable than anyone else. 

An increasing number of organizations are expanding their labor force to be inclusive for people with disabilities and impairments. Companies are recognizing the fight for advocacy and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), while other organizations still pass judgment and may not recruit individuals from the community. 

Sadly, ableism has often been compared to ideologies like nazism, or adversity faced by the LGBTQ community. As an ideology, ableism often crosses over various forms of oppression including sexism, racism, homophobia and more. Using words and language that pass judgment on people with disabilities is a significant part of ableism, from emphatic expressions like “you retard!” to “I’m talking to you, what are you deaf?” These are both extreme, but common colloquialisms that intentionally or unintentionally drive ableism. 

Being aware of how we speak verbally and with our body language is a critical means to fight ableism and advocate for inclusion of all people with disabilities.

Champion diversity and inclusivity today.

Honoring disability awareness pride month & the people it celebrates

1. Educate Yourself About Ableism

As discussed, Ableism is a belief system that assumes people with disabilities need fixing. As a result, it devalues and discriminates against this critical population group.

Learn the appropriate terminology: two phrases often describe people in the disability community:  disabled people and people with disabilities. So, which one should you use? Always use “people with disabilities” because they’re people first. By contrast, the phrase “disabled people” identifies a person by their disability, which may be considered impolite and demoralizing. In other words, a person isn’t a disability—they have a disability.

Read up on the subject: awareness and education aren’t possible without research, and reading books is a crucial way to understand disability pride better. See recommended reading below.

  • “Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens” (edited by Marieke Nijkamp)
  • “Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the Twenty-First Century” (edited by Alice Wong)
  • “Haben: The Deafblind Woman who Conquered Harvard Law” by Haben Grima
  • “Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body” (by Rebekah Taussig)
  • “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life” (by Samantha Irby)
  • “The Pretty One” (by Keah Brown)
  • “The Silence Between Us” (by Alison Gervais)

2. Embrace & integrate digital accessibility

With the evolution of digital transformation, an increasing number of assistive technologies are available to help make your website and digital assets inclusive of everyone, most notably, people with disabilities. Enhancing digital accessibility can also help your company comply with the ADA, WCAG, and all other web accessibility laws. Above all else, this technology enables you to empower people with disabilities with access to an equitable web and digital experience. 

3. Participate in Disability Pride Month

What’s the best way to embrace disability? Find the parade or celebration near you and join the fun! Whether you have a disability or not, this is a beautiful opportunity to help create a more inclusive world.

Here are a few notable events that may be near you: 

Covid 19 & disability pride month: impact & significance

When the global Covid 19 pandemic affected the lives of thousands of individuals worldwide, many organizations representing people with disabilities paid tribute to those who lost their lives, or were physically and mentally affected by the disease. 

Sources indicate that an estimated 60% of individuals who died from the coronavirus were people with disabilities.  Lack of healthcare resources resulting in negligence, and the inability to take precautionary measures to prevent infection or exposure to the virus all led to high rates of contraction and mortality within the community of people with disabilities. As a result of lockdowns, many people with disabilities or impairments were unable to access critical treatment of conditions. 

In July 2021, a range of organizations dedicated their recognition and celebration of disability pride month with a special commemoration of those affected by Covid 19 and the global pandemic that took the lives of countless individuals.

Disability pride month awareness – every day, not just once a year

Disability pride month is an annual event, but we should embrace its message every day. It’s a blueprint for promoting inclusivity through raised awareness and empathy for our fellow human beings. It implores us to promote physical and digital accessibility for people of all abilities. And that’s a principle all businesses and individuals should be proud to support.

UserWay: Disability Pride & Digital Accessibility

At UserWay, disability pride starts with enhancing digital accessibility for people and organizations globally. Our AI-powered assistive technology helps ensure the web is accessible to anyone with diverse needs – including and especially people with disabilities. Let’s take pride in helping our fellow citizens thrive in the digital world. Learn how working together with UserWay can help you achieve this essential goal with its inclusive technology engaging individuals of all abilities for next-level interactivity, user experience and barrier-free access. 

Common FAQs

What’s the main purpose of disability pride month?

Disability Pride Month is a day that embraces and honors people’s uniqueness by increasing visibility and awareness of the positive pride people with disabilities feel. For people with disabilities, this celebration inspires self-approval and champions every type of disability. In addition to the celebratory day, Disability Pride Month also helps encourage public conversations about disabilities and their related challenges. 

When does disability pride month take place and how can you foster disability pride month awareness year-round?

People celebrate disability pride month every July. It’s an opportunity for everyone to celebrate, raise awareness, and highlight voices during the month. But fostering inclusion and celebrating diversity should be a daily part of our lives. Organizations can look into creating an accommodating environment and digital experience for all employees and stakeholders, but most importantly, respecting our differences as individuals. 

People with disabilities can also be gifted with exceptional skills, talents, and abilities. Look past the disability and see the person in front of you.

What Are the Origins of Disability Pride Month?

Disability Pride began as a celebration in Boston in 1990, the same year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. Subsequently, it evolved into a month-long celebration culminating in 2015, 25 years after the ADA was signed.