SPECIALISTERNE NETWORK

International Specialisterne Community

Specialisterne Canada

Specialisterne Canada Inc., a charitable not-for-profit Canadian organization, focused on building a bridge between neurodivergent job seekers and employers. We support employers to tap into the talents of a neurodiverse workforce and build inclusive organizations through education, training, and advisory.

Specialisterne Foundation

Specialisterne Foundation is a non-for-profit organization that works to enable one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges.

July is Disability Pride Month, and it offers a valuable opportunity to educate yourself and your abled employees about the importance of equality and inclusion. If you’re unfamiliar with Disability Pride, it came about after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26th, 1990.

This Act was designed to protect disabled individuals from discrimination and offer them equal and accessible employment opportunities, as well as the legal right to utilize service animals, mobility aids, and accessible parking in public places without fear of harassment.

The first Disability Pride Day took place in Boston in 1990, the same year the ADA went into effect. The first Disability Pride Parade was held in Chicago in 2004 and today is even an official Disability Pride Flag featuring a muted black background with a stripe of soft colors emblazoned diagonally across, each representing a different type of disability.

A Closer Look at the Disability Pride Flag

Let’s take a closer look at what each color of the Disability Pride Flag represents to the disabled community, as well as what it communicates to abled society:

Muted black background: This acts as an acknowledgment of and mourning over how disabled people are often treated in mainstream society.

Red: This color represents physical disabilities.

Gold: This color highlights neurodiversity.

White: This color represents those with invisible and undiagnosed disabilities.

Blue: This color highlights mental illness.

Green: This color represents sensory disabilities such as blindness or deafness.

Make Your Disabled Employees Feel Seen

“Don’t point!” “Don’t stare!” “Don’t talk about it!”

You may remember a time in your early childhood when you first saw a disabled person and, out of curiosity, pointed to them and asked openly about their differences. It may have surprised you that the adult you were with, instead of answering your questions, hushed you, pulled you away, and warned you not to point, stare, ask questions, or talk about it at all. That might have given you a confused, uncomfortable feeling that stuck with you into adulthood, causing you to still feel uneasy around disabled individuals.

Disabled people know that story all too well from the other side. They know that they are often invisible to a society that still averts its eyes, speaks in hushed tones, and crosses the street to avoid them out of embarrassment. Furthermore, this treatment automatically places them in the position of second-class citizens, even if that’s not the intent.

Being unseen is all too common an experience for disabled individuals, which is why both pride and accessibility are so important.

When you celebrate Disability Pride Month, you make your disabled employees feel seen, heard, and included in a way they may not often experience. Moreover, you set a positive example as a leader by teaching your employees best practices when working with disabled individuals.

Educate Your Abled Employees About Disability

During Disability Pride Month, take the opportunity to educate your workforce about the disabled experience, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and disabled people who have carved a space for themselves in a world that has often tried to shut them out and act like they didn’t exist.*

*Note: Avoid using words like ‘inspirational’ or ‘heroic’, however, as they can quickly reduce a human being with real feelings, struggles, and aspirations to only their disabilities, and that can quickly backfire on a good intention.

Provide Accessibility for Everyone

Disability Pride not only celebrates the achievements and individual lives of disabled people but also brings accessibility to the forefront of the conversation. And that’s important for two reasons. One is because accommodations provided to those with disabilities often benefit everyone, including abled individuals. Two, despite all we’ve accomplished as a society to level the playing field for disabled people, we still have a long way to go to be truly inclusive, and it’s a goal we, as a society, should always be striving to meet.

The Takeaway

When you celebrate Disability Pride, you acknowledge and include everyone equally while teaching others to do the same. You also increase knowledge and feelings of psychological safety for all present, which are both paramount to running and sustaining a successful business. Furthermore, you open the door for dialogue around the work that still needs to be done to provide accessibility and inclusion for all.