July is Disability Pride Month

When was the last time you reflected on your ability to:

  • Walk down a gravelly path at the park?
  • Hear the voice of a friend?
  • See an eagle flying in the air?
  • Think through the process of baking a cake?
  • Scratch yourself when you have an itch?
  • Write your own name?
  • Take a deep breath?
  • Recognize your family members when they walk into a room?

Not frequently, I’m guessing. Given that these tasks come so easily for the most of us, we simply take for granted how fortunate we are to be able to complete them.

For 1 in 10 Pierce County residents these tasks are not simple, and some are downright impossible due to sensory, emotional, psychiatric, and physical disabilities. This means roughly 100,000 Pierce County residents have a disability that can make living in an environment for people without disabilities extremely challenging. And that’s just the number of people with a recognized disability. There are many more working through the challenging process to identify their disability.

It is so important that we, as public servants, take the time to actively learn about and consciously consider the barriers that a large portion of our population struggle with. This is especially vital when we are communicating with our customers; making policy, funding, and planning decisions; designing ways for our community members to connect with us or apply for services; deciding which agencies to contract with; etc. It is also crucial that we encourage people with disabilities to apply for positions within Pierce County and other jurisdictions, as well as serve on advisory boards and committees, to remind us of our responsibility to value and care for all members of our community.

July is Disability Pride Month, a perfect time to improve our awareness and engagement on the journey toward disability equity. On July 26, 1990 (only 34 years ago!), the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. This landmark legislation prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, transportation, housing and access to various government programs and services. 

To celebrate this month, I will be working through the “21-Day Disability Equity Habit Building Challenge,” created by the ABA Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council in honor of Disability Pride Month, and I encourage you to join me! The challenge includes a syllabus of short assignments that only take 10-20 minutes a day and includes lots of helpful and educational resources. It is free and will assist in “learning more about the issues that are important to members of the disability community —many of whom are from other marginalized communities.”

I will also be displaying the Disability Pride flag on my email signature for the month of July (Heather-approved!), which will be my daily reminder to take moments to pause and reflect on the challenges people with disabilities face, as well as the incredible daily achievements they must make to navigate our “able-bodied” world.

One of my clients who needs a wheelchair once said, “I don’t mind being in a wheelchair, but I do mind how hard society has made it to be in a wheelchair.”

If you can’t commit to the 21 Day Challenge, here are some other ideas to celebrate Disability Pride month:

  1. Read a book by an author with disabilities.
  2. Host a movie night that features a film focusing on individuals with disabilities. (The Speed Cubers on Netflix is wonderful!)
  3. Encourage the hiring of people with disabilities. As of 2024, 85% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed. Of those who are employed, less than 20% get to enjoy workplace benefits or work more than 13 hours per week. 
  4. Advocate for practices at your workplace that would enhance communication with residents we serve with disabilities.
  5. Support or shop with businesses owned by people with disabilities.
  6. Get involved. Find local organizations to volunteer, donate or advocate.

Before I go, I want to leave you with the description of the Disability Pride flag and what each color means.

The Disability Pride Flag

The charcoal gray background commemorates those who have died due to ableism, violence, suicide, illnesses, etc. as well as a statement against the mistreatment of disabled people.

The colors are purposefully diagonal to symbolize cutting through the barriers that people with disabilities face.

The green stripe is for people with sensory disabilities. 

The blue stripe is for people with mental health disabilities. 

The white stripe is for people with undiagnosed disabilities who are still on their journey of self-discovery and acceptance, 

The gold stripe is for people with neurodivergent disabilities. 

The red stripe is for people with physical disabilities.

Thank you for reading.

Kris Dowling, Social Services Program Specialist

Kris Dowling is a Program Specialist with Pierce County Human Services Aging and Disability Resources, and her programs include Health Homes, Care Transitions, Family Caregiver Support, and Medicaid Alternative Care (MAC)/Tailored Supports for Older Adults (TSOA).  Kris has worked as a social worker for seniors and people with disabilities for 20 years.