Disability Pride month

Kay Huntbach, Prospect Young Workers · 25 July 2022

July is Disability Pride month. What’s that I hear you say? You’ve never heard of it before? Well neither had I. As a disabled woman, I had no idea there was a Disability Pride month until this year so let’s learn about it together.

The flag
Disability Pride month originated in the USA and is in July to recognised George H.W. Bush signing into law the Americans with Disabilities Act on 26th July 1990 and even has a flag with the colours representing different aspects of disability. The black background represents disabled people who have lost their lives through ableist violence, it also represents mourning and rage, and rebellion and protest. Red represents physical disabilities, yellow represents neurodivergence, white represents undiagnosed and hidden disabilities, blue represents mental health and green represents sensory disabilities. The stripes are in parallel lines to represent solidarity within the disabled community and the are positioned diagonally to symbolise cutting across barriers. The flag has been updated this year, previously the lines zig zagged, however this caused a strobing or flickering effect when scrolling on digital devices which could potentially cause issues for folks such as migraines or seizures.

A charcoal grey flag with a diagonal band from the top left to bottom right corner, made up of five parallel stripes in red, gold, pale grey, blue, and green Description ends

A charcoal grey flag with a diagonal band from the top left to bottom right corner, made up of five parallel stripes in red, gold, pale grey, blue, and green Description ends

Why is having a pride month for disabilities important?
Whilst the Equalities Act 2010 protects people with disabilities legally, the lived experiences of people with disabilities tells a different story. The TUC found that disabled people are more likely to be unemployed and those who are employed are earning less. Disabled people are also twice as likely to be in insecure work. Whilst equality is important, there’s clearly improvement to be made and accessibility needs to be an exercise in equity. The world needs to move past the passive not discriminating against those with disabilities and work towards supporting those with disabilities to be able to experience the world as closely as those without disabilities and reasonable adjustments are a way we can move towards equity in the workplace. Prospect have put together a disability resource pack that you can access by clicking here.

Reasonable adjustments
Let’s look at what reasonable adjustments are and how to access them. ACAS defines reasonable adjustments as a change that must be made to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to an employee’s disability when doing their job or a job applicant’s disability when applying for a job. Quite often in an employer’s policy they use the wording where practicable, meaning that the adjustment must be one that is, well, reasonable, but does leave an amount of grey area to what employers can do and can refuse to do. Often a referral to an occupational health professional is made to determine what adjustments need to be made. An occupational health professional will make recommendations based on their assessment of an individual’s disability and individual needs. I’d always recommend in these conversations to mention anything and everything you can think of that will make your working life easier.

Myself as an example, in my previous job, I knew I needed a chair that would support the lumbar region of my back and the ability to work from home (this was a pre-pandemic request) for periods when pain levels were worse. Now, I was given an amazing specialist chair that helped immensely, but my employer at the time was unable to allow me to work from home due to the worry of masking illness and the potential I’d be working when I should be resting, and they felt that working from home would be a failure in their duty of care towards me. As an alternative, we agreed I could have extended posture breaks and a flexible start time for when I was having tougher days but was still able to work. All of these reasonable adjustments helped me fulfil my working obligations without making myself unwell and the business was supportive of ensuring I stayed fit for work.

I want to now talk about what you can do as an individual to support your disabled colleagues and friends. Listening is a key factor in supporting the disabled community. A lot of disabled individuals will be crying out for support, whether individually or on a wider community basis, if you listen you can respond and support. Inclusion is so important to the disabled community. People with disabilities are four times more likely than those without a disability to feel lonely with a greater disparity amongst those 16-24.

Whilst disabled people may not be able to take part fully in an activity, doesn’t mean they don’t want to be included in some way. Have the conversation and think creatively about how to include them and let them decide if they don’t want to come along to an activity that is not for them. Allyship and standing up for the disabled community as a whole is also a wonderful way you can support the disabled community.

There are also many resources out there from disabled content makers that will give you some solid options to support the disabled folk in your life and educate on how to be a good ally to the disabled community. Having people demand better and be an example of what better is, is a wonderful thing.

The final thing I would recommend, and this isn’t an exhaustive list of what you can do to support the disabled people in your life and the community as a whole, is ask the individual what they need from you to help them. It’s simple, but it’s effective!

Disability Pride means a lot of things to the disabled community. It means visibility, accessibility, awareness and being seen, it means making the world a more equitable place and being able to be honest about the various conditions that constitute a disability and what being disabled means to them.

Disabled businessman discussing while sitting with colleague in creative office

Disability equality hub

For an equal and inclusive workplace