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Disability Pride Awareness and Thoughtful Design

For many of us who were left unaware, July is Disability Pride Awareness Month!

Though not technically a nationally recognized holiday, Disability Pride Awareness Month encapsulates the wide spectrum of disabilities held by those who don’t have as loud of a voice as their able-bodied or neurotypical peers. It provides a space for those voices to not only be heard, but uplifted and embraced. 

Amplifying these voices is incredibly important considering the immense deprivation of representation throughout millions of day-to-day lives, and can be found lacking in employment, education, any leadership position, media, and many more areas where representation of any kind can be explored. 

In all honesty, I did not know that Disability Pride Awareness Month was something that existed; I’d never heard of it before. This surprised me considering I myself am a disabled person. Though, upon becoming aware of its existence, embarked on a researching task to familiarize myself with it, and hopefully act as an academic buttress throughout this article. Plus, I get to tie it into design while I’m at it.

Disability Pride Awareness Month Tidbits

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26th, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. It essentially warrants civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination, guaranteeing that people with disabilities will have the same opportunities as all others in participating in everyday American life (United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division). 

This newfound pride month also has a flag that corresponds with the notion that voices of the disabled community are vital to a functional and inclusive society, designed by Ann Magill in 2019. Each of the five colors represent the variety of needs and experiences among disabled people, including mental illness; intellectual and developmental disabilities; invisible and undiagnosed disabilities; physical disabilities; and sensory disabilities.

Disabilities and Design

Thoughtful design is essential in the design world not only because it draws a wider spectrum of talent and candidates, but also aligns with the strong-held belief that inclusive work environments fuel representation and allow the space for people to feel seen, heard, and understood. Upholding that belief is something vital to the ever-evolving workplace and the world we live in, as thoughtful design should empower individuals and incite inclusivity.

Maintaining Thoughtfulness

It is probable that many employees may hold an unconscious bias about their disabled peers. So how can we, as members participating in the design world, uphold this all-embracing notion? 

By familiarizing yourself with not only the importance of Disability Pride Awareness Month, but understanding how you can help your disabled peers, you can do your part in sustaining an inclusive environment. 

“Helping” varies between individuals, so it’s important that if you do see an opportunity to help, that you ask politely; never assume they need help. Instead, offer it and then ask about the ways in which your help would be most efficient and effective for them.

It’s also important to understand the rights of those with disabilities as protected under the ADA so that you can easily spot an unjust situation and take necessary action if applicable.

Mindful Design

In design specifically, however, there are many elements that could make the workplace more accessible for those with disabilities, whether seen or unseen. 

It’s also important to note that more than one disability can exist within a person at once. So, providing an environment that is inclusive to a wider range can truly make a drastic difference in your workplace culture. 

Utilization of modern technology is a fantastic tool when creating an inclusive workplace. Technology yields the path of least resistance for those with disabilities. Some examples include electrical wheelchairs, color-coded keyboards, accessible and accurate braille displays, assistive listening devices, and speech recognition (Thrive). 

For those with wheelchairs, providing spacious pathways are also a must in the workplace, alongside the inclusion of ramps, handrails, and automatic-opening doors. It is possible that other individuals with alternate disabilities might find these factors an efficient element in navigating the workplace. 

Other design choices that may lend a hand to those with more so unseen disabilities include quiet rooms, white noise machines, privacy booths, alternate working spaces, or an outdoor space to decompress.

When we take into account the varying needs of human beings alongside considering lifestyles that don’t necessarily resonate with our own, we can contribute to a society that functions on a scale of mindfulness and inclusion. Going forward, this notion is essential to creating an all-encompassing, representative environment for all.