My Problem With Disability Pride Month
"You can't copy-paste accessibility." Learn why and more in this guest post from Ana Jacob, a member of AudioEye's A11iance Team.
In July, I opened an email from a company that I like quite a bit. (I won’t name it here, which you can take as a hint that this story doesn’t have a fairy tale ending!)
It was about Disability Pride Month, and everything the company was doing to make its stores more accessible. The more I read, the more excited I got. There were actual details, concrete steps on what the company was going to do and how it would make a difference.
Then I noticed the date on the original post was three years ago.
Excitement gave way to deflation.
I feel both emotions a lot when I think about Disability Pride Month. There are moments of excitement, to be sure. The very fact that Disability Pride Month exists is a win. The more people and companies we can get to think about disabilities, and discuss ways to make the world more accessible, the better off we’ll all be.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t deflating when people and companies fail to follow through on their big plans for accessibility. I sometimes wonder if most are simply lip service, things to be dusted off and rolled out each July.
As the calendar turns to August, one question comes to mind: how can we carry the promises of Disability Pride Month through the rest of the year, so we don’t find ourselves in the same spot next July?
So what would real progress look like?
The first step isn’t even about accessibility, but attitude. We need to change the way people with disabilities are treated.
A year from now, I’d love to go to a doctor’s office or restaurant and be asked the questions directly. Don’t ask the person with me if I’m allergic to any medications. Or if I want to order this or that. Talk to me.
Not long ago, I tried ordering an alcoholic drink at a restaurant. The server turned to my parents and asked if I could do that, when they should have just carded me and brought over the drink.
I know biases exist. But assume that we can, until or unless you’re told we can’t or we don’t want to.
There’s also work to be done by people with disabilities.
Within the disabled community, there’s plenty of ignorance about disabilities outside our own. People who are blind don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what it’s like to go through life in a wheelchair.
I’m blind, but I also use a wheelchair. One time, I was browsing a website that sells adaptive clothing — like using magnetic closures instead of buckles and belts.
I happen to know that this brand has a disabled person working at the company. But I don’t think they have any employees who are blind. They’re a great option for people with mobility issues, but they weren’t ready for my other disability. When I tried to click on the size chart for a shirt I wanted to buy, the alt text was blank. I didn't know what size to get, and I couldn't buy anything.
Part of me hates focusing on the negative aspects of Disability Pride Month. But another part knows that ignoring an issue rarely causes it to go away. Two parts, to go along with those two emotions: excitement and then deflation.
I’m grateful for Disability Pride Month. But I also live with my disabilities 365 days a year, just like millions of other people. July comes and goes, but we’re still out here disabled, trying to get things done.
I hope people don’t forget about us until next July.