Disability Pride Week Presents Double Edged Sword Dilemma

Disability Pride week has a strong and clear message, but it also goes directly against the Social Model of Disability and does little to remove the barriers placed in front of 1.1 million people living with disabilities in New Zealand. 

The social model of disability states that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by the actual impairment itself. The model aims to find ways of removing those barriers, and the question that needs to be asked this week is: does Disability Pride really do the same?

The answer is no.

According to several press releases; Disability Pride Week is aimed at bringing disabled people together to celebrate their common connection through sharing stories and showing off creativity. Rachel Noble, one of the minds behind the new movement, said that the vision is for New Zealand to be a place where disabled people feel proud of themselves and their country. Nick Ruane, fellow creator of the event, believes that Disability Pride Week is a way of disabled people claiming their place in society and the wider human rights movement.

It’s argued that pride is an integral aspect to any movement gaining momentum to create future change.

Does Disability Pride Week Stand Up?

It all sounds very good on paper, but in a community where so much of the belief has previously supported the values of the social model, Disability Pride week goes against the grain.

If the social model is true, Disability Pride Week actually supports a society that continues to place barriers in the paths of people within the community. Barriers like fair access to education, employer attitudes towards hiring people with disabilities, and support systems that are rigid and lack flexibility… just to name a few.

Disability Pride Week gives the community little incentive to do anything about fixing those barriers. No matter how strong, inclusive, and clear the messaging behind it is. Conversation is one thing, but action coming from that is another. Conversation, and parading around, will not create the fully inclusive New Zealand for people with disabilities.

To achieve a fully inclusive society for people with disabilities, it’s going to take work from both the disability community and those who don’t identify or fall under the disability umbrella. Taking pride and showing solidarity is to be admired, but the disability community has already been stifled with endless story-telling, discussion around how diverse the community is, and yet more dialogue about the importance of standing up and being counted.

Such tactics didn’t sway votes, or meaningful political attention toward disability issues in 2016, and it will do little here either. Like the Gay Pride and LGBTQ movements before it, Disability Pride Week encourages people with disabilities to go out and actively attempt to convince the wider community to accept them.

And yet, if you look at history, such tactics have done their part to raise awareness. But how much of that awareness has resulted in action? The fight is still, and perhaps will forever be, ongoing.


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