July kicks off Disability Pride Month. This is a starting point resource for employers to actively support and recognize Disability Pride Month in the workplace. Learn how your organization can recognize Disability Pride Month.
People with disabilities are valued members of society and their contributions are endless. The World Health Organization estimates there are at least one billion people with disabilities worldwide. In the United States, the month of July is designated to recognize those who live and thrive with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in July 1990, a landmark U.S. rights law that extended civil rights protections to a person with disabilities. During the month of July, community members highlight their contributions to society and advocate for their legal rights.
Use the quick navigation links below to jump ahead to a specific topic:
- The History of Disability Pride Month
- Why Disability Pride Month Is Important
- How Disability Pride Month Is Traditionally Celebrated
- Employee Considerations
- How to Recognize Disability Pride Month at Work
- TED Talks and Documentaries to Watch
- Books to Read
- Podcasts to Listen to
- Guest Speakers
- How Companies Are Celebrating
The History of Disability Pride Month
You may still be wondering: What is Disability Pride Month? The first official Disability Pride was celebrated in 2015, to commemorate the passing of the American with Disability Act 25th anniversary. That legislation made it so that people with disabilities were not discriminated against from participating in all areas of public life. The acknowledgment of Disability Pride Month was born out of activism when more than one thousand people marched from the White House to the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The month is a movement intended to celebrate the history of the disability rights movement and people with disabilities as positive contributors to our society. Each July marks a conscious opportunity to build awareness of the social model of disability, dispelling myths and stereotypes by showing Americans with disabilities as fully capable and empowered and equal members of society.”
During July a Disability Pride Flag stands as a beacon of encouragement and hope. The flag comprises a number of different elements with each symbolizing different aspects of the disability experience.
- All Six “Standard” Flag Colors: Disability spans borders between states and nations
- Black Field: Mourning for victims of ableist violence and abuse
- Diagonal Band: “Cutting across” the walls and barriers that separate the disabled from society
- Red Stripe: Physical disabilities
- Gold Stripe: Neurodivergence
- White Stripe: Invisible and undiagnosed disabilities
- Blue Stripe: Psychiatric disabilities
- Green Stripe: Sensory disabilities
Also this month:
- July 1 — The Hajj ends
- July 18 — South Asian Heritage Month begins
- July 18-19 — Islamic New Year
- July 16 — Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary
Why Disability Pride Month Is Important
Recognizing Disability Pride Month is an important part of upholding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including transportation, public accommodations, communications, and employment. For example, in numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 21% of people with a disability were employed in 2022. That number was up from about 19% in 2021, and at its highest since the United States began tracking the statistic in 2008.
How Disability Pride Month Is Traditionally Celebrated
The first Disability Pride Day was held October 6, 1990 in Boston. In that very first year more than 400 people marched, drove, wheeled, and moved from City Hall to Boston Common. That first march was a demonstration to prove that disability is a natural part of the human experience. 1990 was also the year that the ADA was signed into law.
The first Disability Pride Parade would not take place until July 18, 2004, in Chicago. Since then there has been parades each year with the exception of 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, the theme was “Disability Pride is Back and Stronger than Ever.” Disability Pride Parades have taken place in other cities across the country.
Disability Pride Month Employee Consideration
Disability Pride Month could be a great opportunity for companies to engage with those employees with visible and non-visible disabilities. If there isn’t one in place, consider implementing a disability employment policy that also focuses on inclusion practices. Employers may also take a look at their website to make sure job applications are more accessible and that the language isn’t discouraging people from applying for job opportunities. If you are looking to bring on new talent, consider choosing from new networks that specifically deal with job seekers with disabilities. Most importantly, it is imperative to emphasize respect within the company so that everyone feels valued.
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How to Recognize Disability Pride Month at Work
Hire individuals with disabilities. Disability Pride Month is a great time to raise awareness, educate employees about the disabled community, and create an inclusive environment for employees with disabilities.
Be aware of your language. Avoid offensive language about people with disabilities, for example, “suffering from” frames disability in a negative light. Additionally, words such as “crazy,” or “lame” are considered by the community to be insulting and disrespectful.
Educate yourself about ableism. By definition, ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. Learn more about this from Access Living.
Invite guest speakers. Use a full-service speakers bureau such as Collective Speakers to book advocates and motivational speakers dedicated to disability awareness issues.
Host workshops. Bring in a professional one day to assist employees as they work to improve their communication skills when speaking about disability awareness at work as a way to build a more inclusive environment.
Choose a TED Talk or documentary to discuss. Recommend it at the start of the month and hold a panel discussion toward the end of the month.
Here are a few TED Talks to consider:
- Ryan Gersava’s “A disability-inclusive future of work”(2022)
- Meghan Hussey’s “4 ways to design a disability-friendly future”(2022)
- Dean Furness’s “To overcome challenges, stop comparing yourself to others” (2020)
- Sinéad Burke’s “Why design should include everyone” (2017)
Here are a few documentaries to consider:
- “Rising Phoenix”(2020; available on Netflix)
- “Misunderstood Minds”(2002; available on PBS)
- “Hawking” (2013; available on Apple TV)
Partner with employee resource groups (ERGs). If you don’t have an ERG dedicated to Disability Pride and awareness, consider starting one this month. If an ERG isn’t feasible, consider partnering with a local organization. Out & Equal created a free guide for how ERGs can celebrate Pride.
Organize an event. Ensure all employees can interact in a safe space where everyone feels included. This could be a team or company-wide lunch.
Start a book club. There is a vast selection of books that recognize Disability Pride and awareness. Choose a book at the start of the month so your team has time to finish it before a month-end discussion. We’ve mined the list of resources below from leading experts in disability awareness.
Books to Read for Disability Pride Month
- “Disability Visibility,” by Alice Wong (2021)
- “Sitting Pretty,” by Rebekah Taussig (2020)
- “Being Heumann,” by Judith Heumann (2020)
Podcasts for Disability Pride Month
- Disability Visibility focuses on life from a disabled lens, featuring conversations led by Alice Wong on politics, culture, and media to amplify the voices of people with disabilities.
- Disarming Disability aims to deconstruct disability through candid conversations with expert guests such as Apple’s director of accessibility policy and initiatives and the Disability Equality Index (DEI) director at Disability:IN. The show is hosted by friends Nicole Kelly and Sarah Tuberty, who met at Camp Winning Hands, a camp for children with limb differences.
- Disability Matters discusses employment and empowerment for people with disabilities. The podcast is hosted by Joyce Bender, CEO at Bender Consulting Services where she leads employment for Americans with disabilities in the U.S.
Guest Speakers for Disability Pride Month
- Becky Curran Kekula works as a disability inclusion advisor and is an advocate of disability inclusion and equality.
- Meryl Evans is an accessibility consultant who was born profoundly deaf. She guides companies through ways to create a safe space for people with disabilities.
- Tiffany Yu is the founder and CEO of Diversability and advises people on ways to elevate disability pride. At age 9, she became disabled as a result of a car crash.
How Companies Are Celebrating Disability Pride Month
- July 1-21 — American Bar Association (ABA) hosts a 21-day disability equity habit-building challenge
- July 10-13 — Disability:IN hosts a conference in Orlando
- July 1-31 — New York Public Library hosts a collection of speakers and events
- July 1-31 — Disability Pride Parades take place in cities across the country
In prior years:
- Nokia developed an e-book on disabilities titled “No Limits to Opportunity”
- UnitedHealth Group’s Disability Inclusion Internship Program partnered with National Employment Team to reach people with disabilities
- Freddie Mac hosted a virtual talk with diversity consultant Dr. Betty Lovelace called “Hidden In Plain View: Beyond the Mask”
- Nestle’s disability-focused ERGs hosted a number of events that connected employees with disabilities and others for workshops on disabilities at work
- LinkedIn shared a list of voices in disability advocacy to follow
Visit our DEI calendar for a complete list of holidays, events, and commemorations for DEI leaders to recognize throughout the year.