Thoughts on Disability Pride

~Liz Hiles, Gryt Health Team Member

According to the World Health Organization, “Over 1 billion people are estimated to experience disability. This corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population, with up to 190 million (3.8%) people aged 15 years and older having significant difficulties in functioning, often requiring health care services. The number of people experiencing disability is increasing due to a rise in chronic health conditions and population aging.”

Ableism is a huge problem around the globe and has created immense stigmas against disabled people that result in barriers to everyday life. In my personal experience with permanent physical and emotional changes in myself as a direct result of surviving a bladder cancer diagnosis, admitting to myself that I will forever fall under a “disabled” label and am a person protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) was the most challenging part of my experience. 

As someone who has always been fiercely independent, and never had been forced to rely on others for assistance with things, admitting that I am a person with disabilities initially felt like a colossal personal failure. However, the further I live with my post-cancer body and the more I confront the medical PTSD that I’ve experienced, the more I realize that this is the furthest from the truth. 

Being a person with a disability doesn’t minimize all of the things that I can do and it doesn’t mean that I cannot do the things that I want to do, as I once thought it did. What it does mean is that sometimes I need to plan further ahead to do the things I want, sometimes I may need aids or other accommodations to make my life experiences safer and more enjoyable, and sometimes I merely need some grace, understanding, and, possibly, a little extra time to accomplish things. Yes, sometimes it also means that I may need some physical help to do some things I can no longer do completely on my own for a variety of reasons. 

Whatever the case may be, I am still me. I still have the same thoughts, dreams, and goals. I am still the same person, I just do things a bit differently now. I am still as determined as ever before to live my life on my terms.

At some point in your life, it is likely that you – yes, YOU – will experience having a disability, whether it is temporary or permanent. That’s a fact that many don’t consider when they are getting frustrated with or making fun of others. Then, when it actually happens to them, they have a really hard time adapting to their new status.

Throughout the pandemic, people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. It is unfortunately common that when people with disabilities access health care, they often experience stigma and discrimination, and receive poor quality services. There is an urgent need to scale up disability inclusion at all levels of the health system, particularly in primary health care.

Disability Pride aims to dispel the negativity associated with having a disability, reframe the narratives surrounding disability, and promote equality and accessibility all while amplifying, empowering, and celebrating the diversity of people with disabilities.  

“I grew up with an aunt who has Down’s Syndrome.  Seeing the challenges she faces had a profound impact on me.  Seeing the way people laugh at her did, too.

“I remember walking down the aisle of a pharmacy next to her as a 6-year-old and seeing two people watching her around the corner, laughing. 

“It was the first awareness I had of how she was treated many days throughout her life. 

“Those experiences also had a profound impact on me as I faced my own challenges.

“Going through cancer twice in my twenties created new physical and mental health challenges that I now, finally embrace as part of my identity.

“That wasn’t the case for most of the past 20 years.  

“I tried to hide the ways I felt different from my peers, perhaps mostly I was trying to hide them from myself.  It might be easier to do that when much of what I face is ’invisible.’

“Starting Gryt Health with fellow disease survivors and caregivers began to change how I felt about my abilities. 

“Learning how to be open over the past 6 years has helped me feel something I never expected – being proud of what I used to hide. 

“AmeriDisability describes Disability Pride as accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.

“I am honored to support that aspiration of how we treat others. I am still working to treat myself with that same compassion and humanity. 

“Most of all, I am deeply humbled to work each day with a team that brings such passion to supporting the uniqueness and beauty of human diversity.”  

Dave in front of GVCC backdrop

Dave Craig

Founder & CEO, Gryt Health

Gryt Health has applied to be a Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) with Disability: IN. Being a DOBE means that we are a for-profit business that is at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by a person with a disability. DOBEs employ people with disabilities at 6-7 times the rate of their non-DOBE peers. For Gryt Health, this means that not only are humans at the forefront of all of the services we offer, but that the humans who are also our employees are granted the accommodations they require to efficiently work for our company while putting their health, safety, and well-being as a priority. We value all of the differences that make each of our employees unique, which makes us an Inclusive Employer.

July is Disability Pride Month and according to AmeriDisability, it is a time to “accept and honor each person’s uniqueness” and “promote visibility and mainstream awareness” of positive pride felt by people with disabilities.

For the disabled community, the month encourages self-acceptance and the embracing of all disabilities.

Gryt Health’s Chief People Officer, Kevin Beckford, says, “Part of being human means that we have different abilities, but the bottom line is that we all are deserving of the fullness of acceptance, and the fullness of love that’s afforded to all human beings. I challenge us all to do our best not just in July but throughout the whole year to look for ways to be an ally and advocate. When you see something happening that shouldn’t be happening, use your position, power, and agency to effect meaning change.”

This month, take some time to focus on and celebrate the Disabled Community and their pride. Take the opportunity to kickstart conversations about disability experiences and issues. Make sure to speak with and gain insight from your disabled colleagues. There are podcasts you can listen to and webinars that you can participate in to learn more about this movement as well. They are a great way to broaden your knowledge of disability, and how to support those in the disabled community.

Do you consider yourself to be disabled? Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject below in the comments. We would love to hear from you!


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One Response

  1. Humbling transparent and authentic words. Thank you for being proud and sharing your story, vulnerability and strengths. As we see leaders own and celebrate what makes us unique and bring the community together; we will then together be able to drive the change that supports the growth and empowerment of our community.

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