July marks the celebration of Disability Pride month. An opportunity to raise awareness and have positive conversations about disability in study and the workplace.
What is Disability Pride Month?
Disability Pride, originating in the USA in 1990 is described as a month to “promote inclusion, awareness, and visibility of people with disabilities, and redefine public perception of disability”.
Celebrating Disability Pride Month also creates opportunities to change the conversation around disability and change perceptions around disabled people’s living experiences. It is a way of celebrating diversity and difference among the disabled community and highlighting ways to better understand and support colleagues in our workplaces.
The D&I Team caught up with Lucie Matthew-Jones, a Reader in Humanities and Social Science, who shared her own experiences of dyslexia and dyspraxia:
“I have been at LJMU for ten years. I carry many labels - ‘female’, ‘born working class’, ‘first generation university student’, and ‘historian’. I am also disabled, being both dyslexic and dyspraxic. I have always disclosed that I have invisible disabilities on DI forms, but it is only in the last couple of years that I have felt publicly comfortable to own my disabilities.
“It was a relief to edit my twitter profile to say that I was ‘dyslexic/dyspraxic’, but part of the reason I had to do this was because someone had called me out for poor grammar on another social media platform. I ended up feeling ashamed. But, far from sinking further into the background, I decided that I had had enough of masking my disabilities and pretending that they did not exist. Simply put, I was not the problem. It speaks to an issue that disabled people face regularly and the lack of understanding non-disabled people have of what it means to be disabled. We don’t need adversaries. We need allies!
“Changing my social media bio also made me realise that I wanted other disabled people to see someone who had dyslexia and dyspraxic working in a university setting. I was surprised, once I started talking about my dyslexia and dyspraxia, how many people would quietly talk to me in corridors or on email about their own struggles and the barriers they were facing. It grates to hear that I have succeeded despite my disabilities, or to be held up as a superhuman role model. My dyslexia and dyspraxia are what makes me the historian-academic-lecturer that I am today. My decision to forefront my disabilities came not so much from a new-found feeling of pride, but from exhaustion and being overwhelmed.
“Consequently, ‘pride’ in the Disability Pride Month can be a difficult term to grapple with for me. Am I proud to be a disabled person? I certainly know that I want to live as my authentic self and not have to mask who I am. What I can say is that I am proud of being a part of emerging local and national discussions of what it means to be a disabled person. I am proud of my disabled colleagues and the informal support we give each other and the hard work of Jenny Craddock and Helen Pottle in running the Staff Disability Network. (Disabled colleagues, join us if you haven’t! Come back if you’ve not been to a meeting recently!) Ultimately, I am pleased that disability is starting to be acknowledged in neurotypical, ableist institutions. Disabled people should not be having to expend energy and emotions fighting for recognition or accommodations. We need a system now that considers more fully the systematic and structural barriers that are placed on us. We are ready for dialogue.”
So, how can you show your support?
Displaying the Disability Pride flag
The Disability Pride Flag. It was created by Ann Magill, a disabled woman. The flag is symbolic of many experiences of the disabled community:
- the black background represents mourning for disabled people who have been subjected to ableist violence, as well as representing protest in the community
- the five colours are the variety of needs and experiences across the range of disabilities
- the band of parallel stripes represent the barriers disabled people must overcome.
Work to become an ally
- Listen: Make an effort to list to/read the stories and opinions of those with lived experiences.
- Get Educated: Look to find material such as books, social media posts, articles, films, webinars and training sessions to learn about current and historical issues facing disabled people.
- Get Involved: Find local groups or networks and show support by helping with their causes.
- Show Up: If you know of a local event or are asked to attend one, go! Listen, learn and show your support!
- Speak Up: To say nothing is to be complicit. It is so important to find the right way to call out hateful and ignorant opinions or views.
- Intervene: Offer support if someone is being targeted with physical or verbal abuse.
- Welcome Discomfort: Having discussions that challenge your thoughts and opinions and that disclose the experiences of others can cause a feeling of discomfort. Its important not to dismiss this feeling but rather to sit with it and try to understand why you feel that way.
- Learn from Mistakes: Don’t feel defensive if you somebody address a mistake you have made, listen, apologise and adapt your behaviour going forward.
- Stay Engaged: Change take time, persistence and drive, staying engaged is crucial.
- Donate: Try to support a local charity or organisation within our community, if you can.
Follow disability activists on your social platforms
Dr. Miro Griffiths MBE is an academic and activist, with a particular interest in young disabled people’s activism and political engagement. @MiroGriffiths
Dr. Erin Pritchard is a senior lecturer in Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University and core member of the CCDS. She is an activist for the rights of people with dwarfism. @ErinPritchard15
Dr Amo Raju OBE is a disabled person from the south Asian community, and has recently published a book based on his own secret battles with depression and the wider world. @AnoSinghRaju
Becca Bunce is a human rights advocate. Her work and research focus on how people with lived experience of inequalities participate in - and lead - social change. linkedin.com/in/becca-bunce
Iyiola Olafimihan is a Disabled consultant/activist and campaigner who has been involved in disability justice work for over 20 years in the disability field, community engagement, capacity building (including Disability equality training), policy, and human rights law such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. linkedin.com/in/iyiola-olafimihan-66306a36
Want to get involved with Disability or Diversity and Inclusion at LJMU?
If you identify as disabled and would like to join the LJMU Disability Staff Network, then please visit the Diversity and Inclusion Staff Network’s page for more information on how you can do this.
If you would like to get involved with D&I work and projects, we would love to hear from you! Please contact the D&I team by emailing email@example.com