Disability Pride Month, July 2023
Every July, we celebrate Disability Pride Month. It is a month dedicated to the disabled community. It serves to acknowledge the systemic discrimination this marginalised group faces by living in a world created for able-bodied people. We also highlight the intersection of disabled trans people.
Disability encompasses a broad spectrum of identities. Many disabilities are also invisible. Therefore, you should never assume someone’s disability status. Disabled people navigate the world differently to those who are able-bodied. This much is clear. However, what is often left unacknowledged is how our society is built around able-bodiedness, othering any form of disability. The social model of disability explains this concept further.
The Social Model of Disability explained
The social model of disability is a way of looking at our world through a different perspective. The model explains that it is our society that constructs barriers for disabled people. It impairs them through ableist infrastructures, restricted access to healthcare, and creates an unwillingness to listen to disabled people’s needs. For example, not including a ramp next to the stairs or buildings with no elevators.
While the social model of disability has its limitations, its perspective is still valuable to understanding our general perception of how our world impacts disabled people. People with disabilities face disproportionate rates of unemployment, and discrimination. This is an injustice that prevails without adequate acknowledgement. We need to move past false notions of disabled people as fragile and help support the needs of those with disabilities in order to reach equity in all areas of life, including the workplace.
Disabled Trans People
The intersection of disability and gender identity sparks an important conversation. A 2022 survey found that people who are trans and disabled were almost three times more likely to report having at least one unmet healthcare need compared to cis disabled people. A further analysis reported that LGBTQ+ people with a disability face not only discrimination, but also ‘lack of access to services, social supports, and community connections’.
Trans disabled people were more likely to experience economic hardship, mental health issues, as well as mistreatment by healthcare providers compared to trans people without disabilities. The survey also revealed how disabled trans people encountered an increased number of denials of gender affirming healthcare.
As one of our team members at GenderGP previously explained, being a trans guy and a wheelchair user comes with its own set of challenges. While he is proud to be a trans, disabled man, navigating healthcare meant he had to ‘keep coming out again and again’. Even after transitioning, healthcare settings felt like ‘opening an old wound’. In his experience, many doctors do not have enough education and training when it comes to taking care of disabled trans patients. As the 2022 survey highlights, gender identity is severely understudied in people with disabilities. Hence the urgent need to acknowledge this intersectional community and their challenges.
Celebrating Disabled Activists and Creators
This Disability Pride Month, we want to spotlight three disabled creators and activists who are fighting for a more accessible and disabled-friendly world.
Imani Barbarin, known on TikTok as Crutches and Spice, is a disability activist. She explains and analyses the way in which Black and LGBTQ+ disabled people experience disability. As a Black queer woman with disabilities, she uses personal insight on accessibility issues to discuss the importance of intersectionality within disability rights.
Haben Girma is a deafblind human rights lawyer, speaker and author. She is an advocate for disability rights who has been fighting for inclusion. Girma was the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School which led to her writing an autobiographical book. If you would like to know more about Haben’s story, you can find a copy of her memoir Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law HERE.
Ben-Oní is a trans-pangender and neurodindigenous community builder. In 2020, they founded Black Neurodiversity, a resource page for more accessible spaces. They delve deeper into the experiences of Black, neurodiverse people and how they are less likely to be afforded the safe space to unmask. They explain that ‘the more marginalized identities you hold, the less you have access to the privilege of unmasking’.
Let’s keep fighting for the inclusion of people with disabilities! Disabled people, especially those who identify as trans, deserve to be foregrounded in conversations around accessibility and healthcare, not casted aside like an afterthought.