Please note this article mostly uses identity-first language — disabled people — rather than person-first language: people with disabilities.
When many nondisabled people think of a disability (of disabled people) they’re either repulsed or filled with sadness, pity for those they see as broken. Disability, however, is the natural result of creating society for one type of person (nondisabled, neurotypical people).
So, in July, disabled people — particularly disabled advocates and their allies — celebrate Disability Pride month. While July commemorates the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 — which protects people with disabilities against discrimination — disabled and neurodivergent people advocate and celebrate their pride year-round.
While Disability Pride Month is a time when society does listen to disabled people there are plenty of other times throughout the year to listen and reflect on the world of disability culture, the largest minority group in the United States.
One in four American adults lives with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
1. Disability Day of Mourning, March 1
Held at the beginning of March of each year, Disability Day of Mourning is a day of remembrance. This solemn occasion memorializes disabled people who have died from violence, abuse and/or neglect. Disability Day of Mourning serves as a reminder of the dangers of ableism, the need to eradicate attitudinal barriers and advocate for the safety and wellbeing of disabled people.
2. World Down Syndrome Day, March 21
Down Syndrome Awareness Day promotes inclusivity, education and human rights for people with Down Syndrome. Advocates spread anti-ableist messages that promote the humanity of people with Down Syndrome, despite ableist attitudes the oppress these minorities.
3. Neurodiversity Celebration Week, March 13-19
A worldwide initiative, this week features panel discussions, podcasts, and various other events that challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about neurodivergence, neurotypicality and neurodiversity. This week, advocates work to dismantle neuronormativity.
4. Autism Acceptance Month, April
You might hear different terms for this month. (I simply say, “Autistic Month.”) The official start is April 2, Autism Acceptance Day. During this month, Autistics dispel misinformation about their neurotype, culture and diverse community through events and other mostly online activities.
5. Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month, May 15-June 15
During this month, you can listen to the multitude of Tourette’s voices on social media, conference panels, and elsewhere as advocates work to increase understanding and acceptance of those with Tourette’s. Each summer, advocates work to disrupt the many stereotypes and misconceptions attached to this neurotype or neurological profile.
6. Neurodivergent Pride Day, June 16
Neurominorities and neurotypical allies around the world celebrate neurodivergent pride day with a particular theme. 2023’s theme was “What’s STRONG with you?” Neurodivergent Pride Day is a day to dispel neuronormative, ableist myths and show the reality of neurodivergent life — struggles and gifts, challenges and triumphs.
Visit NeuroClastic to learn more about neurodivergent pride.
7. Autistic Pride Day, June 18
Every June 18, Autistics around the world celebrate Autistic Pride. Autistic pride, is an act of radical self-acceptance, an achievement given the toxic cultural messages society creates and shares about Autistics. Autistic advocates are loud and proud representatives of disabled resilience and diversity.
Follow Reframing Autism to learn more about Autistic culture.
8. World Cerebral Palsy Day, Oct. 6
A global movement, World Cerebral Palsy Day serves as a reminder that over 17 million people have cerebral palsy. Begun in 2012, this movement reach over 10 million participants in 2022, uniting people with cerebral palsy, their families, caregivers and individual and organizational allies from across over 100 countries.
9. White Cane Awareness Day, Oct. 15
Hosted each year by the National Federation of the Blind, White Cane Awareness Day has been an annual national observance since 1964. White canes are essential tools that enable blind people to navigate society and develop self-reliance.
10. National Disability Employment Awareness Month, October
A common misconception is that disabled people don’t or can’t work. Observed each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), celebrates past and present contributions of American workers with disabilities while highlighting inclusive employment policies and practices that enable employers and employees.
11. International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Dec. 3
International Day of Persons with Disabilities, lead by the United Nations, recognizes that disability inclusion is essential to upholding human rights and sustainability.
Please note that this list is selective, not exhaustive. Disabled people advocate year-round, often burning out as a result, as the very need to advocate for your rights is a form of disability. These months, like June’s Disability Pride Month, serve as reminders to society that disability is diversity, not a tragedy. There is no shame in being disabled or neurodivergent, just as there is no shame in being nondisabled or neurotypical.
Disability pride results from surviving a world that isn’t designed for you, which leads to creativity and resilience. As the social model of disability illustrates, disability occurs when there is a mismatch between a person’s body or mind (bodymind) and their environment and is perpetuated by attitudinal barriers: people who equate disabled with subhuman and refuse to accommodate and listen to disabled people.
Sure, disabled people have atypical bodyminds, but disablement is an action that is done unto a person. So disablement can turn into enablement if society employs a universal design that enables everyone, whether disabled or nondisabled, whether neurotypical or neurodivergent.
Most people enter disability at some point in their lives. Some only stay for a short time, while many stay for life, advocating for their rights and waiting for society to listen. Please listen when disabled people say, “Nothing about us without us.” And when we say that, accommodating disabilities makes the world much easier to navigate for everyone.
Edited by: James Sutton