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National Disability Independence Day

Rodney Bowles / July 24, 2023
National Disability Independence Day

Many Americans don’t know that on July 26th, we acknowledge and celebrate National Disability Independence Day! This date commemorates the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability just as other civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs.

Many people think the word “disability” means people who require a wheelchair, assisted device, or walker. However, there is much more to disability than what we can often see.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States counts around 61 million adults with disabilities. That represents 26% of adults in the US or 1 in 4 adults, and over 95% of them are not as apparent as most people often think. Examples of invisible or non-apparent debilitating physical and mental conditions include diabetes, cancer, lupus, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury, and many others. These conditions call for a new way of approaching disability, in which we don’t stick to a definition based solely on assistive equipment or someone’s external appearance.

The benefits of broadening their understanding of persons with disabilities are endless. Advocating for equal treatment and rights of people with disabilities helps create a more empathetic environment and helps individuals feel seen, supported, and included.

Acknowledgment and validation of invisible or non-apparent disabilities are critical to this awareness effort. In addition to managing life-changing symptoms, many people with these conditions often face criticism and discrimination due to a lack of understanding. Without seeing an apparent indicator, like a wheelchair or crutches, people can often dismiss the effects of an invisible/non-apparent disability on someone’s life.

It is always best to never assume someone does or does not have a disability, as most are invisible/non-apparent.

It will be through acknowledging, validating, and understanding that our views of persons with disabilities will change and expand opportunities in the workplace and our communities so that everyone can contribute and benefit equally.

For more information on inclusive strategies and practices for persons with disabilities, please visit the CDC website.