“Pride is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”

Pride celebrations have long been a topic of conversation for many groups – with the Disability Pride movement picking up momentum internationally only in the past few years.  Some may be primed to ask why Disability Pride is important in the first place? Individuals with disabilities have been historically marginalized and made to feel “less able” than their peers.  There has long been a train of thought that when individuals with disabilities thrive, they do so in spite of their disability, not because of it.  In my opinion, I think celebrating Disability Pride is not celebrating a label, difference, or even perhaps the overcoming of barriers. Rather, my vision of Disability Pride would be one that celebrates a re-framing of disability in its entirety.

This viewpoint is better explained by my own experience with disability.  My adolescence was troubled by my undiagnosed ADHD; I struggled in silence and felt overwhelming shame, consistently feeling like I couldn’t access my full potential.  Receiving a diagnosis, medication, accommodations, and developing new skills helped me overcome my own barriers academically – but it was a mentality of thriving ‘in spite of’, not ‘because of’.  It wasn’t until much later in my education, and the start of my career, that I finally felt the positive components of my ‘ADHD brain’ were utilized and celebrated.  Establishing roles in workplaces that utilized traits such as an ability to analyze big-picture concepts, hyper-focus on details and project completion, and a never ending desire to be kept busy and engaged with multiple duties and projects, has allowed me to thrive because of my disability.  When I re-framed my disability, I re-framed how I thought of myself, and celebrated the ways my differences could give me a competitive edge.  Pride means different things to different people, and each person’s experience with disability is so unique.  My only hope is that Disability Pride creates a movement where we celebrate ‘disability’ for the opportunities it represents.

“Disability Pride is about celebration, education and empowerment. For me, the education portion of pride is especially important. As a person living with epilepsy, I educate people about my disability all the time. Educating people about my disability helps me feel understood, and that’s empowering. Disability Pride creates conversations that help us learn and understand each other better. It’s an opportunity to learn from and celebrate our differences.”

– Andrea van Vugt, Director of Disability Pride Alberta