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Celebrating Disability Pride Month: Honoring Progress and Advocacy of People with Disabilities in the United States

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As Merit's new Emergency Management Specialist for Underserved Communities, my mission is clear: advocating for all groups. This Disability Pride Month, I'm honored to reflect on the remarkable impact Americans with disabilities have made and continue to make in our society.

Disability Pride Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements, challenges, and identities of people with disabilities across the U.S. while acknowledging the ongoing work needed to promote inclusivity. 

The ADA: a transformative law

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 was a historic milestone in the fight for equal rights and accessibility for all people with disabilities. It rewarded the relentless advocacy of so many people who recognized the urgent need for change. The ADA brought about sweeping new accessibility in employment, housing, and access to public spaces for previously marginalized people.

A long journey to awareness and advocacy

Before the ADA, people with disabilities faced an unequal and discriminatory landscape. The lack of understanding surrounding their needs and active discrimination hindered progress. So-called "Ugly laws," which permitted the arrest of people with disabilities as a form of segregation, were finally repealed in the 1970s. I am reminded of the intersectional struggles of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, emphasizing the vital importance of elevating disability rights as an integral aspect of civil rights.

Impact and implications in emergency management 

Discrimination against people with disabilities carries far-reaching consequences. In my role, I emphasize the urgent need for inclusivity and a broader perspective in emergency management. By embracing things like adaptive technology and building trust between emergency responders and underserved groups, organizations like Merit can strive for equity and ensure that our emergency planning and response efforts consider the diverse needs of all individuals, including those with disabilities. 

Amplifying voices and promoting collaboration

Recognizing and uplifting prominent disability advocates also drives change, as their insights and firsthand perspectives are invaluable. 

In our recent webinar, "Building Trust with Underserved Communities in Emergency Management," Valerie Haven, CEO of Redefining Bravery and the first blind graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, highlighted the significance of active listening, learning, and building trust.

"The hardest part in getting started and earning the trust of these communities is being comfortable listening and letting people teach you and guide you. Once you get over that hump and allow yourself to be taught and guided by these people, they will most likely be very happy to share their experience because they want to be heard." 

 

As we celebrate Disability Pride Month, let's honor the progress in disability rights and inclusivity. 

By acknowledging the history of discrimination, listening to the voices of people with disabilities, promoting collaboration, and addressing accessibility challenges within the industries in which we work, we can continue our collective journey toward a more inclusive and equitable society. 

Listen to the entire webinar on-demand here.

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