It's Disability Pride Month. You should know that I'm proud to be disabled.

Here's something you should know about me: I'm proud to be disabled.

I can picture some of you looking very perplexed right now. Admitting this fact about myself is something I may have said in a hushed tone just a few years ago. Why? By all accounts, I'm not supposed to be "proud" of my disability. Not according to society, at least. But then again, I've never given much thought to societal conventions. Thankfully, I'm not alone.

July is Disability Pride Month, which is sparking so many much-needed conversations about living with a disability and what it means to celebrate that. People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the United States, with 61 million adults living with a disability, according to the CDC—that's one and four people.

Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate people with disabilities. It's also a time to call for changes toward a more inclusive, accessible world. The first Disability Pride Day was held in 1990, coincidentally, the same year as the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA); the pivotal legislation was the biggest disability rights win of our generation and it "prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services and to participate in State and local government programs and services."

Maybe that's why this year, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA, this idea of disability pride feels all the more poignant and important. While I may have reached a place of pride now, I didn't always feel this way.

I was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder that primarily affects the face, hands and feet. I've had around 25 surgeries to straighten my legs, as well as correcting my scoliosis. I spent the majority of my formative years in and out of the hospital. At times, what was harder than all those surgeries was feeling so different from everyone else. I grew up never seeing anyone that looked like me— not on TV, not in movies, not in books or even magazines. At a time when all I wanted to do was fit in, it was hard to stand out so much.

People are shocked when I say I'm proud to be disabled because we still live in a society where pride and disability don't belong in the same sentence. Disabilities are seen as shameful. They are looked at as something bad. People should feel sorry for us. Who would want to be disabled? That's a question I've heard far too often from too many people. I've had individuals tell me that a disability and wheelchair is nothing to be proud of, it's nothing to celebrate and that it's something I should be ashamed of.

Of course, people's cruel words are only parroting the messages society sends about disabilities. We live in a culture that treats disability as something bad or negative. From a young age, disabled people are taught to be ashamed of something that's a huge part of their identity. I felt ashamed of my disabled body for many years; I wasn't comfortable in my own skin and, interestingly, becoming a writer that helped me change my perspective. The more I wrote about disabilities and about my life, the more I felt a cleansing of sorts. It was as if the act of writing was literally rewriting the voice in my head that had played on a loop for so long. The voice that told me I was ugly. The voice that told me I was unworthy and unlovable. The voice that told me my disability was shameful. It was as if I was shedding my old skin, making way for self-love and self-acceptance after too many years of shame and hatred.

I can't help but feel like 2020 is a reckoning of sorts when it comes to disabilities—a moving of the needle toward inclusion, accessibility, opportunity and acceptance. Those are the things disability activists have been fighting for years to achieve. Because where the ADA is about literal access, Disability Pride Month is all about visibility and representation. It's about inclusion. It's about opportunity. It's about celebration. It's about having a seat at society's table.

I'm forever proud to claim my seat, to unapologetically take up space and to be included. Finally, we're seeing this trend of disabled people reclaiming what it means to have a disability. We don't typically see the words pride and disability together, but for disabled people like me, the two words go hand in hand. "Disability pride" is a declaration as much as it is a celebration, where the disability community is shouting, "Yes, disabled people want to be seen and heard. And guess what? We're not going anywhere!"

My disability pride has taught me to be more vocal. To speak up. And, yes, to show my face, especially through countless selfies on social media. Disabled people are here and we're proud. While Disability Pride Month may be about the disability community, it's also important to have support from able-bodied people.

A huge part of disability pride centers around identity. I know things like "I don't see your disability or wheelchair" are meant as compliments, but those words are actually quite hurtful. It's dismissive of my lived experience as a woman with a disability. It's like saying my disability doesn't exist. Since my disability is a part of my identity, it's like saying I don't exist. It's, again, viewing disability through the ableist lens of disability is bad and able-bodied is good. It's assuming that I want to be seen as "normal." But guess what? Spoiler alert...I am disabled. And it's not a bad word.

My hope is that one day, we won't need any entire month to remind people that it's okay to celebrate disabilities and that society will celebrate us because they see our inherent worth and dignity just like we do. Until that day, though, here's a reminder one more time: Please, see my wheelchair. See my disability. See all of me.

True

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday are teaming up to find the people who lead with love everyday.

Know someone in your neighborhood who's known for their optimistic attitude, commitment to bettering their community and always leading with love? Tell us about them for the chance to win a $2,000 grant to keep doing good in their community.

Nomination ends November 22, 2020

Acts of kindness and compassion are always inspiring. A veterinarian gave a different spin on the phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

The poor little pup in this video walked into this shelter with a history of being abused. He was so traumatized that he wasn't eating. The vet treating him wasn't sure what to do, so he decided to book a table for two: a the dog's place. It is not clear whether he got an official invite from the canine in question, but he felt pretty safe about showing up unannounced. He walked into the cage and sat down next to the dog. With his back up against the corner of his new (and hopefully temporary) domain, the rescue stared apprehensively at his human guest. The vet presented a dog dish with food and put it in front of the dog. The frightened pup just looked at the dish and made no attempt to eat. Then he broke out another dog dish identical to the one he just gave to his four-legged patient and started eating out of that bowl. And then came the turning point.


Keep Reading Show less
True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
True

When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

Keep Reading Show less

Do you know that guy who has never had an issue with his TV/internet provider? Neither do I. If you claim you have never had issues with your bill going up without warning, then you are either lying or you own the cable company. Jake Lawson apparently does not own a cable company, and was prepared to communicate his frustrations regarding his bill in a most creative way.

First off, Jake understands what everyone should realize. The customer service representative doesn't own the cable company either, so yelling at someone who is just trying to make a living like all of us is not the answer. Their job is hard enough as it is so give them a break. Jake gave them more than a break. He gave them a song.


Keep Reading Show less