Disability Pride Month Celebrates the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Carson Pickett, who was born without a forearm or left hand, became the first person without a limb to make the United States Women’s National Soccer Team in 2022. (© Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

There is an estimate 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. Their contributions benefit everyone.

In the United States, July is Disability Pride Month. It marks the 1990 enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark US rights law that expanded civil rights protections to people with disabilities and ensured that all Americans would benefit from their talents.

“To me, Disability Pride is a lot of things,” said Jessica Ping-Wild, an American blogger who lives in London. “It’s a chance for people with disabilities to declare their intrinsic valuesomething that is not often done by people outside the community.

ADA Commemoration

Jessica Lopez, center, takes part in the first Disability Pride Parade in 2015 in New York City. (© Seth Wenig/AP Images)

The first official celebration of Disability Pride was held in 2015 to commemorate the ADA’s 25th anniversary. The landmark legislation was signed on July 26, 1990.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life and enables their full participation in society – working, going to school, using public and private transportation services, by voting, buying goods and services or accessing public places. [See a timeline of some landmark events and legislation leading up to the passage of the ADA.]

In July, community members celebrate their contributions to society and defend their legal rights. Several American cities hold parades to recognize the community.

Awareness through a flag

Red, gold, white, blue and green stripes on a dark background extending from top left to bottom right (public domain)
The Disability Pride flag (public domain)

The Disability Pride Flag helps increase the visibility of the community. Ann Magill designed the flag in 2019 with feedback from community members. She then worked with photosensitive people to produce a more accessible version.

Five diagonal stripes of different colors lie on a black background. The Black Field mourns the victims of violence and abuse against people with disabilities. The diagonal suggests overcoming the barriers that separate people with disabilities from society.

The five colors of the flag represent different types of disability: red (physical disability), gold (neurodivergence), white (invisible and undiagnosed disability), blue (psychiatric disability) and green (sensory disability).

Make sense of business

By empowering people with disabilities, the ADA has also strengthens the US economy. Consider these numbers:

  • According to Accenture, companies prioritizing disability inclusion have had 28% higher revenues and 30% higher profit margins.
  • People with disabilities, along with their family members and caregivers, account for $2 trillion in annual disposable income.
  • The exclusion of people with disabilities from the workplace leads to losses of up to 7% of gross domestic product, according to the International Labor Organization.

The U.S. government is doing its part to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance support people with disabilities around the world. Sara Minkara is the United States Special Advisor on International Disability Rights, traveling the world to discuss how the full inclusion of persons with disabilities benefits society.

Full inclusion of all State Department employees, with and without disabilities, is a critical part of the efforts of the Office of the Secretary of Diversity and Inclusion, led by Ambassador Gina Abercrombie WinstanleyDirector of Diversity and Inclusion.

The Department of State also supports Mobility International USA National Center for Disability Information and Exchange and its work to increase the number of people with disabilities participating in international exchange programs.

Showcasing talent

Smiling black woman holding a cane (© Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
The award-winning artist known as Lachi helped start the disability advocacy group called RAMPD, which stands for Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities. Lachi, above in April, was born with congenital visual impairment. (©Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

People with disabilities continue to make historic contributions in many fields such as music, science, sports and technology.

Ralph Braun, an entrepreneur with muscular dystrophy, is considered the “father of the mobility movement” for his ideas that led to the invention of wheelchair lifts, wheelchair accessible vans and motorized scooters.

Notable scientists include the “father of the light bulb” Thomas Edison, who lost his hearing. Physicist stephen hawkingsuffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, changed our view of the universe.

Stephen Hawking in a business suit sitting in a wheelchair (© Matt Dunham/AP Images)
British physicist Stephen Hawking at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games (© Matt Dunham/AP Images)

In sport, the Paralympics showcase the talents of people with disabilities every four years. Off the field, athletes advocate for inclusion, access and fairness. Elite American athletes, including gymnast Simone Biles and professional basketball star Kevin Love, help break the stigma of mental illness acknowledging their own struggles and raising awareness of the conditions that affect millions around the world.

On the American football field, defenseman Carson Pickett became the first limbless person to serve on the United States women’s national soccer team this year. “I hope to encourage anyone who struggles with their member difference to not be ashamed of who they are,” Pickett said.

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