July is Disability Pride month: today Chantal shares her thoughts as a person living with life-long disabilities.

A charcoal grey flag with a diagonal band from the top left to bottom right corner, made up of five parallel stripes in red, gold, pale grey, blue, and green

You can learn more about the disability pride flag here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability_flag

There is a part of me that does not want to identify with disability pride because I don’t want to attach a value judgement to it. I do not have a problem with the word “disability.” In my view, disability is not a positive or negative. It just is what it is. Asking if I have disability pride is like asking me if I am proud of my brown hair. I like it. Then again, it is the only hair colour I’ve ever known, and I didn’t do anything to earn it.

There is a part of me that does not want to identify with disability pride because in biblical terms pride is not an admirable quality. (See Isaiah 2:12, Isaiah 23:9, James 4:6, Philippians 2:3, Proverbs 8:13, Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 13:10, Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 26:12, Psalms 10:4, 1 Corinthians 13:4, Daniel 5:20, etc.)

Thankfully, disability advocate Judith Snow planted the seed of disability confidence in me. In 2015 I heard her speak at the Institute on Theology and Disability. In her view, God didn’t create some people to be disabled and some people not to be. God created some people with certain types of gifts and other people with different types of gifts. For that reason, she said she hated the word disability.

“Disability pride” is a difficult idea for me because following Judith Snow’s perspective, I wasn’t even sure I ascribed to the concept of disability. Her message helped me begin to recognize how God transforms some of the challenges I face into strengths that benefit myself and those around me. For example, because I cannot write things down, my memory is extremely well developed. The fact that I must rely on a screen reader rather than visual comprehension means that I hear every word of emails and documents and I often pick up on details that others might miss just by hearing. The fact that I must collaborate with others to complete most projects means that my final products are often enhanced by the variety of God-given skills and talents of the coworkers I collaborate with.

There are very few obstacles that I can’t find my way around, but over the years I have also come to terms with the reality that there are contexts in which my disability makes me more vulnerable than most people. For example, I struggle with visual navigation. I have limited modes of transportation and if no one is around to assist when I need personal care, it is detrimental to my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. While frustrating, these challenges help me to trust God and rely on people around me. Prior to developing disability confidence, I often felt guilty for inconveniencing people that I relied on for support with daily living, as though I needed to compensate for my challenges, and I felt guilty for asking others to accommodate me.

Developing disability confidence has helped me to ask for accommodations that I need and to notice the grace they afford to myself and everyone around me, rather than feel guilty. For example, asking my colleagues to stop meeting when I need to use the facilities, has afforded all of us some much appreciated breathing room.

Philippians 2:6 says, [Jesus] being in very nature] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; this shows that Jesus, our ultimate example is not someone that is prideful, but he is most definitely confident in his identity. To develop confidence in one’s identity is to develop a Christ-like quality.