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Learning to Take Pride in My Disability (and How You Can, Too)

I am a wheelchair user. It is important to be proud of our differences, which ultimately help unite our communities.

Pride movements celebrating cultural diversity, religious diversity, racial diversity, and sexual orientation have become popular in recent years, spreading pride in differences that were once considered taboo. Like those popular cultural pride movements, it is important to be proud of our differences, which ultimately help unite our communities. Read below to find out what disability pride is and how to use your disability to your advantage. Help yourself and others celebrate our differences.

What is disability pride?

Many people with disabilities still live with the stigma that having a disability is undesirable or something that needs to be “cured,” or “fixed,” so that people with disabilities can fit into mainstream society. Often people with disabilities are expected to adapt to their environment rather than adapting the environment to function better for them.

For years, people with disabilities have faced discrimination finding employment, excluded from participating fully in society due to stigma and physical inaccessibility. Disability pride allows those who belong to the culture of disability to reclaim their voice and their power to let society know that they have significant contributions to make to their communities.

Like other cultural, religious, or sexual orientation minorities, people with disabilities are speaking out about the pride they feel in being different. Disability pride means being proud of who you are, regardless of ability. Pride represents a rejection of the notion that being able-bodied is the only desirable lifestyle and acknowledges the dignity and worth of all people.

Characteristics of disability pride:

  • Pride in being different
  • Rejection of an ablest world view
  • Recognition that disability is natural
  • Realization of the self-worth of people with disabilities
  • Awareness that people with disabilities live with dignity
  • Celebration of the contributions, skills, strengths, and attributes of people with disabilities

The Journey to Becoming Proud of Your Disability

For some individuals, the journey to becoming a proud disabled community member is long and winding while for others it can seem to come more easily.

Some people with disabilities who were born with a disability may have had longer experience developing their self-awareness as someone who has always been different while those who experience disability later in life may struggle with learning to adapt to their new bodies and navigating the world differently than before.

However the journey to disability begins, the journey to disability pride can begin by embracing your differences and using them to your benefit.

Needing to use a wheelchair, walk with a cane, have a prosthesis, or live with a brain injury does not mean that you have any less gifts or talents than before your disability or than someone without a disability. Your journey to disability pride can start with a simple commitment to believing in the worth of your strengths.

So how can you begin your journey to being proud of your disability?

Start by Identifying your Strengths

Learning how to show pride in your disability can be a challenging journey for anyone who has faced stigma, had to fight for basic rights, or struggled to fit in.

Having faced so many “no’s” in life (i.e., being unable to access a public building because it wasn’t accessible, not being allowed to play with other kids because the game wasn’t adaptable, or facing the stigma of being less intelligent due to a physical difference) it can feel like an uphill climb to try to combat the stereotypes or unequal access in day to day life.

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Common Stereotypes about disability:

  • Lazy
  • Unintelligent
  • Weak
  • Incapable
  • Dependent
  • Inspirational
  • Victimized
  • Pitiful
  • Asexual

By focusing on your strengths and turning what society might traditionally label as “cons” of having a disability into “pros,” you can leverage your newly-identified pride in your strengths to become a self-advocate and advocate for others and debunk stereotypes like those listed above.

Identifying your strengths on your own can be easier said than done. To get a true gauge of your strengths, engage your family and friends and try the following exercise:

  1. Ask 5-10 of your friends what they would say are your top 3 strengths (Facebook and social media is a good tool to use for this to get responses back fast!)
  2. Make a list of all of your friends’ responses and circle the top 5
  3. Behind each strength list 2 or 3 ways you can use that strength to spread your pride in yourself and your disability whether it is by sharing them with others, using them to advocate for someone else, or applying them when you need to advocate for yourself.

For other ways to identify your strengths, which you can use to apply to your personal or professional life, check out this video below:

Use Your Disability Pride to your Advantage

Being proud of your disability is a skill that will become an intrinsic part of your life and one that you can immediately begin applying to your daily life. Below are just some of the ways that you can apply your disability pride to your own life:

  • Use your pride to not be afraid to ask for help and ask what you need. Being proud of your differences does not mean you are showing weakness by asking for help. In fact, asking for help takes courage and strength of character.
  • Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your disability as one of your greatest strengths in job interviews or when petitioning to join a committee or another aspect of community life. Let decision makers and employers know that having a disability has allowed you to learn skills and you bring a unique world view to the position.
  • Use your disability as a gateway to network and meet new people. Being proud means you are not afraid to use your disability as an icebreaker, to start a conversation, or to introduce yourself in order to build important connections in your community or make new friends. Acknowledging your disability first can help others embrace it, too!

Use Your Disability Pride to Help Others

Now that you have used your pride to start advocating for your needs, acknowledging your disability as one of your greatest strengths, and leveraging your difference to build your network, check out some ways below that being proud of your disability can help others:

  • Honor your uniqueness and tell your story to others. Sharing your own experiences can help others cope with their own challenges and find their voice to share with others.
  • Share your pride with others on social media, via a letter to the editor, or in daily conversations. The more we talk about disability the more we break down stereotypes.
  • Advocate for others. Get involved in campaigns around disability legislation or call your local representatives to let them know that disability issues are important and matter to people in the community.

Become Educated and Spread the Pride

Now that you believe in the power of your disability, identified the positive impact of your strengths, began advocating for yourself, and others, become as educated as possible about the history of disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and disability events in your community.

Many of us can name at least a handful of influential people in history who belonged to the civil rights movement or fought for religious or social justice, but many of us are not taught about the history of disability culture. By learning as much about disability history and ADA regulations as you can, you can leverage this knowledge when there is a future opportunity to advocate for yourself or someone else, and can share your knowledge with others.

Other ways to spread the pride:

  • Post stories about disability on social media
  • Join in a disability pride parade or start one in your community
  • Share your own disability journey via blogs or in your local newspaper
  • Volunteer for social justice organizations in your area
  • Wear clothing that shows your pride or spreads a positive image of disability
  • Get involved in anti-bullying programs at a local school

Are you a member of the disability community? How do you show your pride? Share your own journey to becoming proud of your disability in the comments.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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