Disability Pride Celebrates Diversity in Our Communities

Council staff members standing behind the Council’s information table
Jaxon Baker, Denise Jess, Rachel Pavone and Kathleen Callen staffing the Council’s information table at last year’s Madison Disability Pride Festival

July is Disability Pride Month, a time to celebrate the diverse community of people with disabilities, reflect on progress that has been made in empowering folks to live with dignity, and re-energize ourselves for the work that lies ahead in building genuinely inclusive communities. Disability Pride has been celebrated for over 30 years, commemorating the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.

“Historically, people with disabilities have been systemically isolated and institutionalized, so to be in the community together celebrating our diversity is really a radical act of love for the disability community,” says Rebecca Hoyt, Disability Rights and Services Specialist with the City of Madison.

While the ADA was a great step forward, there is still much work to be done. Major disparities persist in transportation, web access, physical barriers and many other areas that prevent the more than one million Wisconsinites with disabilities from fully participating in society.

“Honoring Disability Pride is important to us at the Council, because it’s about celebrating the inherent worth of all people, including people with blindness, vision loss and other disabilities,” says Denise Jess, Council Executive Director.

The population of people with disabilities consists of folks from all different backgrounds; people of color, low-income people, unhoused people and LGBTQ+ people, and individuals from all walks of life all make up significant portions of the disabled community. It’s important to recognize that those from already marginalized groups face further barriers to society when they have a disability. We at the Council work hard for disability justice—the drive to build a world where every person with a disability has the opportunity to live a self-directed, satisfying life.

“Our mission to promote the dignity and empowerment of people with vision loss ties solidly to disability justice,” Denise says. “We support people in building skills to enhance independence and confidence; we advocate to open doors and remove barriers; and we educate to reduce bias and open hearts and minds. We recognize that not all people with vision loss identify as having a disability, and that the ability to self-identify is also a critically important part of disability pride and justice.”

“The Disability Rights movement was largely inspired by other civil rights movements around race and gender,” Rebecca says. “Unfortunately, a lot of agencies that provide services for people with disabilities tend to provide fewer services to BIPOC people with disabilities. I think that when we center the voices of people who are marginalized in our movement, everyone benefits.”

There are several Disability Pride events happening around Wisconsin this month.

The La Crosse Disability Pride Festival will take place on Saturday, July 20. The event is put on by the Disability Action Network. 2024 marks their third Disability Pride Festival.

The event will take place at the La Crosse Central High School from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will feature presentations, performances, a community art project, children’s activities and resource booths. ASL interpreting, accessible restrooms, plain language information and a sensory break area will be available.

A Disability Pride Month Celebration will be held in Cottage Grove at Doundrins Distilling on July 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The celebration will include adaptive dance performances, an exhibit of art pieces by local artists with disabilities, talks from local authors with disabilities, and more.

Madison’s Disability Pride Festival will take place on Saturday, July 27. Organized by Disability Pride Madison, the festival will feature stage performances, exhibitors, artists, activists and more as we celebrate the disabled community in Madison and beyond.

“The city of Madison is proud to be a long-time sponsor with Disability Pride Madison,” Rebecca says. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for people to form a community with each other, connect with resources, and to celebrate diversity in a space that’s accessible to all.”

The Council will have a table at the Madison Disability Pride Festival, where you can stop by to introduce yourself to members of our staff and learn more about the resources we have to offer.

The City of Madison will also be hosting a hybrid screening and discussion of the film “Crip Camp” on July 18. The award-winning film follows a group of teenagers who reclaim the slur “crip” for themselves. You can attend this free event in person at the Madison Municipal Building, and it is open virtually to people across Wisconsin. You can find more information at CityOfMadison.com/Civil-Rights/Programs/Disability-Rights-Services-Program/Events.

Easterseals is also hosting a Virtual Disability Pride Parade on July 26 via social media. The parade will showcase virtual “signs” that you can create to show your pride and participants can share stories about the positive difference folks with disabilities are making in people’s lives.

Share this post