As a legally blind woman, it took me years to reveal the full extent of my disability to employers. When I did that, I downplayed my blindness as “just a little myopia” or had to issue a disclaimer: “It never held me back and I have references to prove it.”
And if I had to turn back time, I would do the same.
Why? Even if I had a great manager, I couldn’t deny the statistics that were ingrained in my head. Although one in five US adults has a disability, more than a third of company employees report negative prejudice or discrimination in the workplace.
If this statistic seems hard to swallow, imagine reading it as a young professional with a disability.
Due to hard data combined with the fact that I didn’t know anyone like me in my field, I was afraid to mention my disability.
Now, at HubSpot, I’ve probably talked about my blindness. That’s how I got to know others with disabilities. I even helped other colleagues create HubSpot’s first Disability Alliance, which will provide education, virtual meetings, and resources to our allies and others in the disability community.
One thing I’ve discovered is that disability affects almost all of us – regardless of race, gender, or geographic region. If you don’t have a disability, visible or invisible, at the moment, you can learn how to cope with it as you get older. If not, you may have a friend or family member who deals with a disability every day.
Unfortunately, there are still employers who ignore a person’s performance because of physical or mental disabilities. Because disabled people may be restricted by location or financial constraints, they may still have to endure judgments in the workplace to earn a living wage.
But while I would still avoid revealing my blindness if I traveled back in time, I believe we can work towards a future where people like me can confidently own their identities at work.
And there is no better time than July (aka Disability Pride Month).
What is disability pride?
Disability Pride initiatives and the July Disability Pride Month celebration in the United States aim to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act and raise awareness of disability, inclusion, and accessibility in and outside of the workplace.
These efforts encourage people with disabilities to show pride in what makes them unique, and encourage allies to promote the visibility and representation of those in that group.
Disability Pride Month is also an important time to look back and reflect on all of the great strides the disability community has made in the past. Looking back on positive historical results can motivate us to act for change and a better future for people with disabilities.
Why Marketers and Corporations Should Take Pride in Disability
Although Disability Pride Month occurs only in July and primarily in the United States, Disability Pride can be celebrated every day by marketers, managers, and companies around the world.
While advertisers can take the time to find new ways to make their campaigns, offers, and content more inclusive and accessible, managers and employers can consider how to provide all employees with the skills and support they need to be successful.
To inspire future action and change, here is a short story about how the rights of people with disabilities have changed and improved around the world – right up to Disability Pride Month, which was proclaimed in 2015. This is not an exhaustive list of achievements for the disabled community, but it highlights some people, landmark court cases, and international events that promote disability awareness or promote disability equality.
A timeline of disability pride
Disability in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
1880-1986: The Helen Keller era
Helen Keller, a deaf and blind woman who was almost homeschooled because of her handicaps as a child, proved many skeptics when she graduated from Harvard University’s Radcliffe College; Cambridge School in Weston; and Wright-Humason School for the Deaf.
Keller later worked in the civil service and wrote several bestsellers.
Keller’s early life and his work with the teacher Anne Sullivan were titled in a seminal book “The miracle worker.”
1930: The Mental Treatment Act 1930
This was a law of the UK Parliament that allowed voluntary admission and outpatient treatment in psychiatric hospitals. At this point “Asylums” were converted into “Psychiatric Hospitals”.
1946: Employee of the psychiatric hospital charged with murder
German courts have charged employees of Hadamar Psychiatric Hospital with the murder of nearly 15,000 citizens at the facility. Adolf Wahlmann and Irmgard Huber, the chief physician and the head nurse, were convicted. This process was a landmark case that gave the same importance to people with mental illness as to people without them.
1947: Japan enacts accessibility laws
This year Japan passed three laws, including
- The School Education Act: Providing education for disabled children such as general education, special education, non-residential education, special schools and walking education.
- The law on occupational accident insurance: Provision of disability pensions and lump-sum disability benefits, as well as welfare benefits such as special allowances, medical benefits, health care or the provision of prostheses.
- 1947: The Postal Act: Postage for Braille and registered mail for the visually impaired is free, packages for the disabled can be sent at half price. The postage for magazines from groups of disabled people can be sent for a small fee.
1973: Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 is passed by the US Congress
The passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 guaranteed that people could not be denied services or federal funding solely because of their disability. It also recognized people with disabilities as a minority for the first time. This law was also incredibly historic because it designated the exclusion or exclusion of children or adults with disabilities as illegal discrimination. For this reason, disabled people could now receive training or work in similar roles as people without disabilities.
The passage of law was widely publicized and sparked more discussion about disability rights and equality in the United States. Ultimately, it was seen as the basis for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Disability Pride celebrations begin with the ADA
1988-1990: The Americans With Disabilities Act is proposed and passed
The ADA was designed in 1988, brought through Congress over the next two years, and ultimately approved by President George H.W. Busch in 1990.
In its earliest form, the law aimed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination both in the workplace and outside. The main provisions of the law include:
- State and local governments must give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services and activities (e.g., public education, employment, transport, recreation, health care, social services, courts, elections and city assemblies).
- Employers with 15 or more employees must give qualified people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all the employment-related opportunities of others.
- The law prohibits discrimination in hiring, hiring, promotion, training, pay, social activities and other privileges of employment and limits questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made.
- All employers must make reasonable provision for the known physical or mental limitations of other qualified persons with disabilities, unless this leads to undue hardship.
- Public transport authorities are not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services.
- Local public transport must also meet the requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, endeavor in good faith to buy or lease barrier-free used buses, and prepare buses for barrier-free access.
- Paratransit must also be provided on fixed bus or train systems.
- Businesses must comply with basic non-discrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation and inequality. They also need to meet specific architectural standards for new and remodeled buildings, such as: B. Appropriate changes to policies, practices and procedures. In addition, public companies need to remove physical handicap barriers in buildings.
Disability celebrations begin
The first Disability Pride Day was held in Boston in 1990 to coincide with the passage of the ADA. Later, in 2004, Chicago hosted the first US Disability Pride Parade, making the celebration an annual tradition in the city after the first drew thousands of people to the city.
Disability Pride didn’t become a full month until 2015 – when Mayor Bill De Blasio declared July Disability Pride Month in New York State to celebrate the ADA’s 25th anniversary. Aside from 2020 when public gatherings were canceled, the Disability Pride Month Parade in NYC has become a major annual celebration, attracting people from all over the world.
Disability pride today
In the past decade we have seen more depictions of people with disabilities in the media and in the workplace than ever before. While there are still a number of changes we are fighting for, equality rights have come a long way. Here are a few great examples of where we see groundbreaking disability pride:
One area where disability stories have received special attention is the world of literature. Even in the 1900s we had groundbreaking books like: “The Miracle Worker” which followed the early life of Helen Keller (mentioned above). Today there are thousands of great works written by disabled personalities, their advocates, or their followers. Here is just a long list to get you started.
Here are two great examples of current or upcoming shows where disabled actors play a character with a disability:
Crip Camp: A Revolution with Disabilities (Netflix, YouTube)
This Netflix documentary follows a groundbreaking Woodstock-era summer camp that inspired a group of teenagers with disabilities to build a movement and explore a new path towards equality and independence.
Some members of HubSpot’s Disability Alliance have recommended Ramy, a Hulu drama that follows a first-generation American Muslim, played by comedian Ramy Youssef, on a “spiritual journey through his politically divided New Jersey neighborhood.”
While the show was in vogue for its plot, it also made headlines because Youssef cast his best friend, a muscular dystrophy standup comedian named Steve Way, to play his sidekick on the big screen.
Here’s an interview Way gave about the show and how the casting was a groundbreaking step in content streaming:
This is us (NBC, Peacock, Hulu)
The last few seasons of This Is Us have partly followed the parents of a blind character named Jack. As Jack grows up he gains independence, fights as a musician, and eventually becomes a famous singer and parent. Not only is the story hopeful, but the character is incredibly realistic as it is actually played by a blind man.
Here’s an interview with Blake Stadnik, who plays Jack and shares his experience on This Is Us:
Social media has become an important platform for people with disabilities and their allies to tell their stories. Below is a list of some great accounts to follow courtesy of HubSpot’s Disability Alliance:
- Diversity: Instagram, website
Tiffany Yu (Founder of Diversability)
- Sinéad Burke: website, Twitter, podcast
- Tess Daly: Instagram
- Jillian Mercado: Instagram
- Tae McKenzie: Instagram, website
- Madeline Stuart: Instagram, website
- Have Girma: Instagram, Website, Twitter
- Keah Brown: Instagram, website
- Andrea Dalzell: Instagram,
- Annie Segarra: Instagram, Youtube
- Chella Man: Instagram, website
- Imogen Fox: Instagram, website
- Rebekah Taussig: Instagram, website
- Angel Giuffria: Instagram
- Holly Scott-Gardner: website, YouTube
- James Rath: Instagram, YouTube
- The Blind Life Sam: Instagram, YouTube
- Squirmy & Grubs (Shane & Hannah): YouTube
- Molly Burke: YouTube
- Megan Absten: YouTube
- Cole & Charisma: YouTube
Where we can further increase awareness
Disability Pride Month is a great time to see how far we’ve come and how far we can go. As we continue to raise awareness, July is also a time to ask ourselves questions like:
- “Am I a good ally for the disabled community?”
- “How can we get companies and people to become more inclusive?
- “How can we make jobs safer for people with invisible or mental disabilities?”
- “How can we prevent people with disabilities from feeling like they have to hide their identities in order to have a safe job?”
By continuing to learn, tell our stories and listen to others, we can better think about where we can improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Ultimately, as we saw above, breakthrough laws, regulations, and change arise from a combination of advocacy and alliance. By telling and hearing Disability Pride stories, people with disabilities can be empowered to stand up for themselves. In the meantime, people without disabilities can learn to serve as stronger allies.
You can find more information on setting up integrative campaigns or offices in these current articles:
Want to learn more about how HubSpot is celebrating Disability Pride Month? Follow HubSpot Life on Instagram to see acquisitions made by myself and other members of HubSpot’s Disability Alliance.