Going Beyond the Surface
Oftentimes people think of an individual with a disability as someone with a physical condition that is visible, but many disabilities are NOT visible. Disabilities you can't see are just as important to understand and respect as those you can, and building more awareness is one reason Youth Solutions is proud to celebrate Disability Pride Month throughout July.
In July of 1990, the United States passed the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) which was created to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Disability rights are civil rights and anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities qualifies under this law. Each year in the month of July, our nation celebrates Disability Pride Month as a means to bring greater awareness, promote inclusivity, challenge societal stigmas and foster a sense of empowerment for all people who have disabilities. Recognizing the importance of Disability Pride Month is an essential step toward building a more inclusive and accepting society where everyone has the opportunity for an excellent education and fulfilling career opportunities.
At Youth Solutions, we want to create an environment that nurtures everyone’s talents, respects diversity, protects their rights and creates equal access to education and career opportunities. By embracing disability pride - for those with visible and invisible disabilities - we foster understanding and create communities that value the contributions of every individual, regardless of their abilities, ensuring that everyone feels as if they belong. We realize that all disabilities aren’t always visible and some feel sidelined by their issues. Disability is a spectrum encompassing a broad variety of illnesses, many of which cannot be seen by looking at an individual’s physical appearance. There are a variety of conditions that aren’t easily recognized like: anxiety, depression, personality disorders, Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, visual impairments, hearing loss, sensory or processing difficulties, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain and other neurological disorders.
You might not know they have a disability, but several celebrities you know have been diagnosed with invisible illnesses and disabilities. A few examples include: Selena Gomez has Lupus, Jack Osbourne has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Demi Lovato has bipolar disorder, Morgan Freeman has a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia, Richard Gere and Ben Stiller have had Lyme Disease, Halle Berry has diabetes and Amanda Seyfried has anxiety. These celebrities have chosen to speak out about their disabilities in the hopes of raising awareness and reducing the stigma around invisible disabilities.
Closer to home, youth who participate in our Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) program have felt the effects associated with invisible disabilities. In our last Coffee with a Purpose discussion, Part 2 of a 3 Part Series Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and YOUth, Rose Syers, one of our JMG youth panelists from Marquette Alger Technical Middle College (MATMC), opened up about how she didn’t realize that she had Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. A chronic condition that isn’t visible, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, but often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or being overly active.
“For a long time, I thought that I just procrastinated and was a little lazy. When I got to college it got a little worse so I decided to get it checked out and it turns out I have ADHD”, commented Syers. She continued to say “I had been struggling to pay attention and keep up with my classes and needed a little extra help. My grades took a huge downturn during my first semester but after I met with the Office of Accommodations at Bay College, they helped me get my grades back on track. They offered me a lot of accommodations including extended test time, a private area to take tests, extra break time, and top priority seating. Without Bay College’s willingness to accommodate me, I wouldn’t be on the path that I am now, which is finishing my nursing degree.”
Oftentimes, people with disabilities, like Rose, only need small accommodations to help them be more successful. Disability Pride Month provides us with an opportunity for improved collaboration and support for individuals with disabilities, their families, schools, workplaces, organizations and the wider community. Celebrating Disability Pride Month plays a crucial role in bringing attention to the need for equal rights, accessibility and inclusive opportunities.
Stay tuned for more details about our next Coffee With A Purpose in the fall where we’ll continue the conversation about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Follow us on our social media channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and share our posts with others who may be interested in learning more. Follow our Youth Solutions Twitter and Facebook pages as well!
How will you celebrate Disability Pride Month in July?