Eliana Tardio Hurtado works as a Project Associate at WestEd on the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Her passion for systemically improving education for students with disabilities is firmly rooted in her love for her two children with disabilities and as a person with ADHD diagnosed in adult life.
In this post, Eliana raises awareness of national efforts to recognize and celebrate pride in disability.
What Disability Pride Means
You may not intuitively associate pride with disability. But people with disabilities and their family members—like me—celebrate this diversity.
Disability Pride was born in 1990, following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a foundational civil rights law for people in this country. (ADA National Network, s.f.)
July is Disability Pride Month and is a national movement to celebrate disability as an integral part of identity for many people. It’s a reminder that there is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to cure for or about people with disabilities. Disability Pride Month recognizes disability as a natural part of human existence—one that many do or will experience directly or indirectly because of a diagnosis, accident, age-related factors, or other conditions.
Like everyone else, people with disabilities live with a focus on their talents and abilities while they also navigate their unique situations. However, the potential of people with disabilities is negatively affected when societal norms devalue them and their lived experiences. The dark side of disability is not in the person but in the barriers imposed by an ableist society that expects everyone to follow standardized procedures constructed on the foundations of perfectionism and supremacy.
The Importance of Disability Pride for Educators and Researchers
Disability Pride celebrates disabilities as an integral part of the whole person from an asset-based mindset.
As researchers, it is vital to recognize the great value that representation brings to the table and the importance of diversifying data sources to gather different perspectives that allow room for evolution, adjustments, and continuous growth.
As educators, Disability Pride is an invitation to embrace the responsibility to make inclusion possible through the organic application of universal design, focusing on accommodations as supports that can benefit all students while creating environments of acceptance and collaboration.
It’s also a powerful reminder that special education at its best is about cooperation and the strengthening of the system in ways that benefit all students. In our hands lies the “ability” to deconstruct disability as we maximize the gifts and potential of every child.
How to Honor and Support This Month in Our Work and Communities
Our society tends to believe people with disabilities need to be saved from their disability, repaired, or fixed up so they can be like everyone else. People with disabilities should be accepted and seen as complete individuals who can live worthy lives through enabling conditions of accessibility and the right services.
Let’s avoid the “I don’t see the disability” statement to realize that we need to see disability to understand the need for and take action to create accessibility. Ignoring the needs of people with disabilities will not make them disappear, and taking pride in our responsibility to eradicate disabling behaviors from our systems enables success.
Lastly, let’s listen to people with disabilities and their families with an open mind and an honest desire to learn from their lived experiences and unique perspectives. They know what they are talking about.
Eliana Tardio Hurtado is committed to leveraging the power of technology and social media as an organic tool that creates accessibility and ensures meaningful stakeholder involvement at all levels. She has more than 18 years of experience working in the special education field. As the mother of two children with Down syndrome, Eliana has grown as a professional while navigating the educational system. As a parent and professional, her dual perspective brings lived experiences and a unique passion for equity and inclusion, with celebration of diversity as the foundation of success for all students.