Sometimes when we think about Disability Pride we think that it means that we have to be an activist. That if you don’t fight for the disability community-as-a-whole, you don’t have pride. At the start of Disability Pride month, I asked my community “What does Disability Pride mean to you?” I got a lot of answers. Some talked about not letting ableism affect them, some about being able to speak openly about their disability. Most just sought acceptance.
ABLEISM IN HEALTHCARE
Ableism still affects many disabled individuals today. It is common among the many disabled individuals struggling to access quality healthcare. Having an invisible disability makes it hard for doctors to take you seriously, especially if you look young. This type of ableism is even worse if you are trans or a part of the BIPOC community.
Disability pride can be shown by standing up against doctors when they gaslight and ignore us. Or when we fight against our own insurance providers when they deny our referrals, leaving us without proper care. Disability Pride starts with advocating for yourself.
One of the other answers I received a lot of was “being comfortable in my own skin”. Internal ableism is still very prominent in the disability community. Learning how to love ourselves and unlearn our own ableism is so very powerful.
It is important to learn (and unlearn) the ableist constructs society has taught us. It helps us to be kinder to our disabled bodies and counterparts. When we unlearn our own internal ableism it helps us understand others in the disability community, rather than compete with them. Acknowledging our internalized ableism helps us communicate the struggles we have with doctors, instead of hiding them due to stigmas.
Internalized ableism can cause us to not go to the doctor because we refuse to acknowledge our disability. It can cause disabled individuals to not-get mobility aids for fear of “looking disabled”. Becoming comfortable with our disability and our own skin can be revolutionary.
TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR JOURNEY
Having Disability Pride doesn’t mean shouting at the world, educating everyone, or pointing out all ableism everywhere. But here’s the thing, we are disabled and chronically ill. So what do we need as we fight with our bodies and minds every day? My hope, is that we can learn to take pride in our disability while finding comfort in our own skins.
Amelia Blackwater is a 32-year-old chronic illness and mental health writer and poet. She finds therapy in writing about her experiences as an Autistic living with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) called Transposition of the Great Arteries. Amelia is passionate about advocating for mental health for the chronic illness and disability community and writes for several advocacy communities. She lives in Southern California with her husband, parents and two black cats.