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Celebrating Disability Pride Month



Text: Michaela Medveďová / Anna Pawlowicz


In many countries around the world, July is celebrated as Disability Pride Month. To celebrate, in this issue, we dive into the origins and history of Disability Pride, explain the meaning of the colours of the Pride flag, and talk to Leigh Ramsay, a member of the disability community, about what Disability Pride means to her.


Origins of Disability Pride month

Disability Pride Month started in 1990 in the United States as a commemoration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This landmark law "prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places open to the general public. Through the law, equal opportunities are supposed to be guaranteed for individuals with disabilities." The first Disability Pride Day was then held the same year in Boston.


Disability Pride has since evolved from a day event into an entire month dedicated to awareness and has spread to other countries as well.


Besides coming together and celebrating, Disability Pride Month is also a chance for people to "raise awareness of the challenges they still face every day to be treated equally." It is an opportunity to change how disability is defined and thought about and to bring an end to the stigma that often surrounds and impacts the lives of people with disabilities.


The Disability Pride flag

As a worldwide movement, Disability Pride boasts its own flag, the current version of which was designed by a writer with cerebral palsy, Ann Magill. Since 2021, the Disability Pride flag features 5 colours on a black background. Each of the elements has its meaning:

  • Green symbolises sensory disabilities like deafness or blindness.

  • Blue is the symbol of mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.

  • White represents people with invisible or undiagnosed conditions.

  • Gold represents individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, including neurodiversity.

  • Red symbolises physical disabilities.

The black background has its significance, too. Each year, the disability community loses numerous individuals to disability-related violence, abuse and negligence. The black colour in the Disability Pride flag ignites the mourning for the people we lost and symbolises the rage and protest against the mistreatment of people with disabilities.


What does Disability Pride mean to you?

To highlight what Disability Pride means to members of the disability community, we had the opportunity to speak with Leigh Ramsay, a South African who's lived in Denmark for over a year now. Leigh works at Maersk's headquarters in Copenhagen as part of their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team, and she chairs the Diverse Abilities Employee Network at Maersk globally.


Leigh is a truly diverse member of her team and organisation with four diversity dimensions – she's female, living with a disability (syndactyly), she's a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and an international.


When asked about what Disability Pride means to her, Leigh says: 'To me, Disability Pride is an opportunity for folks with disabilities and their allies to celebrate the unique identities, experiences and contributions of people with disabilities. It's also an opportunity for celebration and for raising awareness around the subject.'


Leigh believes that increased awareness of disability helps break down stereotypes, destigmatise disabilities and promote more inclusive workplaces and society. She adds: 'Given that the Disability Rights movement started in the US in the 1990s, Disability Pride is an occasion to reflect on the progress we've already made, but also the fact that we still have a long way to go to achieve full inclusion.'


As a part of the employee network, Leigh and her team have planned a variety of events to celebrate Disability Pride, including opportunities to elevate disabled voices in live events streamed globally. They're inviting a speaker who has lived experiences in various dimensions of diversity, including that of an unseen disability.


In our conversation, Leigh sees a huge opportunity in future for Disability Pride to be celebrated more prominently in Denmark as, disappointingly, there are no dedicated Disability Pride events taking place in Copenhagen this year. According to Leigh, a number of European countries still have a way to go to fully embrace disability inclusion, and Denmark is one of them. In Leigh's words, 'Disability Pride is a reminder that we need to keep talking about this subject to bring the change that we need to see. It's a call to action to get everyone involved – whether you have a disability or not.'


At The International, we fully agree that the change in the perception of disability in our society can only come if each of us becomes an active ally. We encourage you to explore Disability Pride events in international communities, and if you have any questions about this topic, please contact us at The International at lyndsay@the-intl.com

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