July is Disability Pride Month which honors disabled people and the history and future of disability advocacy. CDCSS values those with cognitive and developmental disabilities and believes disability deserves to be respectfully represented and recognized in social studies education, as well as in our educational communities.
The 2021 Disability Pride Flag
On March 13, 1990, Washington, D.C. was witness to a critical moment in the Disability Rights movement. Over 1,000 demonstrators marched from the White House to the U.S. Capitol. Their demand? Pass the then-stalled Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Before 1990, disability had become a protected category under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, barring discrimination on the basis of disability from federal and federally-funded programs. However, public spaces remained inaccessible to many.
On that day March 13, 1990, protestors arrived at the steps of the U.S. Capitol. About 60 demonstrators of all ages parted from their mobility devices and separated from the crowd to physically crawl up the stairs of the U.S. Capitol. An eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins got out of her wheelchair and joined in the crawl. This public performance would be remembered as the Capitol Crawl. The event showed the outright inaccessibility of public architecture on the very mall that would decide the fate of the ADA, and in the very face of the nation’s legislators (source 1, source 2).
The public performance of the Capitol Crawl is reminiscent of what other movements had to do to raise awareness and public pressure for their equal rights causes. The Civil Rights Movement sought to sway public opinion by publicizing conflicts between peaceful protestors and violent officials. The goal with such performances is to make clear and visible to the public the wild juxtaposition of heroic endurance against uncaring/unresponsive leadership.
By July 13, 1990, Congress voted to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was signed into law July 26, 1990. The ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities” including personal mobility, transportation, communication, public participation, and more (source 3).
A Flag to Waive
A Disability Pride flag, separate from queer pride flags, was designed by Ann Magill in 2019. Magill admitted that a main driving force behind creating the flag was simply wanting something to wave with pride. Through collaboration with an online community, Magill redesigned the flag in 2021 and put the design in the public domain.
Magill’s flag has a softened black background with a negative diagonal band of five parallel colored stripes. The black background represents anger and mourning of eugenics and neglect. The colors of the stripes are softened shades of red, gold, white, blue, and green, and each represents a dimension of disability: physical; neurodivergence; non-visible or undiagnosed; emotional and psychiatric; and sensory, respectively (source 4).
On the podcast The Accessibility Stall, Magill described what it means to her to celebrate Disability Pride Month. “‘I may not be happy about my identity now because of life circumstances, but I deserve to be happy,’” she said, “I think that’s the core of it, recognizing that you deserve happiness, even if you’re a marginalized person, whatever your marginalization is” (source 4).
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