Episode 3 | Transcript

Published: Thursday July 6, 2023

Disability Pride Month | Embracing Identity

Challenging ableism and redefining Disability Pride and empowerment

Episode Transcript:

Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go. 

Welcome back to another episode of Pushing Forward with Alycia. I am Alycia so happy. To have you back. And so pumped. We are kicking off disability pride month which is something that we celebrate annually in our country. And, I thought what a perfect fitting as we are kind of launching this podcast and getting our first few episodes off the ground. That, we launched it during Disability Pride Month, and [can help] shine some light on this celebration and talk about it a little bit.

I am excited to kind of dive into this topic. I have invited back to sit on this conversation with me, my husband and business partner, Marty, because he is also disabled. We both live with [disabilities] and I thought it would be good to have a male and female dual perspective on the subject. So welcome back Marty. Thanks for taking some time. 

Marty Anderson: Thank you for having me once again and I look forward to talking about disability pride.

Alycia Anderson:  When we started diving into disability pride what we realized, and what we know already really know is that a lot of people do not know what disability pride is in our country. Would that be fair to say, Marty? 

Marty Anderson: Yeah, I think it would be fair to say that. We both maybe somewhat struggled just a little bit thinking about what does pride mean to the disability community? I think it starts with the traditional explanation of celebrating the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July of 1990. The ADA was passed and gave people with disabilities rights in the United States of America to access pretty much everything out there that everyone wants to use and do in this world.

Definitely a great reason to celebrate, but in regards to pride also we all know that there is a lot of feelings that come from pride. There is also a well-known pride month that is right before our pride month. It has a lot of the same undertones and excitement and inspiration, that it is OK to be who you are in this world. And, so we piggyback on that, and we also put our little twist on it. And, as we know, we talk about disability being very wide-ranging and complex and super intricate in so many different ways that we think of it as the kitchen sink theory, that everything is thrown into one. But we are all super individuals and we all live our own lives totally independently, in respects from each other and you cannot call one disability the same as another.

I think that disability pride month is a great month for us to talk about all the things that make disability great.

Alycia Anderson:  I think that is a good point. That it is a month where we kind of come together as a community, but also as individuals in our own self-awareness of who each of us are, but also being a part of this community and finding a place in our society and within our own spaces. That we are proud of who we are, the way that we are in this moment, and you are right from a pride standpoint, it really is recognizing that you are proud of who you are. You have self-esteem and confidence and self-respect in those layers. The interesting thing about disability is, as we have been diving into this content, we have been writing stories on it. We have really been trying to explore the subject.

A lot of people in our lives have asked us, what is disability pride like? How do you describe disability pride and what does it mean to you? For me, when we were diving into that conversation, it really was a feeling of honor and self-respect, and having an understanding of what my limitations might be, living with a disability, but also accepting that and taking on the challenges that it might give and loving who I am in that space. And, finding places to uplift [disability].

Society typically looks at disability as something that we should not celebrate, right? It looks at disability through the ableism lens, like that, It needs to be fixed. In reality many people with disabilities look at their disability as something that is part of their identity. So, when we start to talk to people about being prideful, of being [disabled]. Sometimes it is hard for them to understand why we would be proud of that.

Marty Anderson: Yeah, I think that you are going to get a mixed emotion. If you were to survey 100 people with disabilities, you would get quite a range of responses. I think that disability pride is something that, not, maybe all of us have in the disability community.

I think it may take some time to form and not to say that it could not just happen right overnight, but I know for me, maybe for you, that it took a while to, you know, get over the feelings of being wanted to be hidden away. All the challenges and the obstacles that we have to face right out of the gate, the doctor’s appointments, the different things that we go through with disability and…

Alycia Anderson:  Lack of access. 

Marty Anderson: Yeah, the lack of access. I know that you have talked also about even in your job searches that you used to hide away your wheelchair and try to not show it off, and that’s where disability pride… Maybe after a while you become you… you become more proud. And, I think that there is an interesting way to look at it, going back to the multifaceted Ness of disability, in that disability pride could be celebrated in so many ways, it could be celebrated by the individuals that have the disability.

It could be celebrated by the friends and family of people with disabilities, where they look at the person with a disability and are proud about how much they have done with their lives or overcome or have achieved. I think that there could be many, many ways to look at it, and we could even look at it as a collective, how far we have come as a community with disabilities, and how far we are pushing forward our existence here in the United States and all around the world.

Alycia Anderson:  Disability pride, like you said, has been. Acknowledged in our country. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 from that year, pride parades and celebrations around the country that started in Boston started to spread across the country. Yet we are here today, and when we start to write stories and have conversations about disability pride, it is largely overlooked, and most do not understand that it is something that we are celebrating.

We are trying to shine light on the fact that we are proud to be disabled people. For me, you are right. Like it did take me quite a while to have self-acceptance and remove the internalized ableism that I carried around from my disability, hiding it from hiring managers, pretending like everything is all good. And it is not. It is like there’s … I cannot hide away from my disability, and as I have grown into the woman that I am today, I absolutely understand that my disability is one of the most empowering things about who I am.  

And this month allows us to, you know, kind of shine a light on that power, lift it up and strip away the layers of invisibility that society puts on a person with a disability and shines a light on the whole being, including the disability and all of the nuances and opportunities. 

Marty Anderson: I think that it is a great time for us to reflect on all that we have been doing over the past several years now in charging up and gearing up and creating this speaking business of yours, thinking back on all the beautiful moments that we have got to share. Disability pride month comes once a year, but in reality, a lot of people with disabilities should be celebrating disability pride month every day.

Yeah, it really is something for us to look at and say wow, look at all the knowledge. Look at all the experience. Look at all of the things we have learned to overcome… to deal with, to not get down, to keep a positive attitude, to continue to grow, to continue to want and to desire, to move forward in our lives and find goals that we can attain. To keep reaching for the things that we want in our lives.

Alycia Anderson:  I also think it is a time for us to look in the rearview mirror and lift up the advocates and the people who have fought tirelessly since the 50s that were pushing forward the disability rights movement, fighting for legislation, creating opportunities of employment and education, and this life opportunity, but then to also look at where we are in our present, see where we have come, where we are right now and what we need to do in our future to continue moving forward, that advocacy to continue to advance opportunities and acceptance and the inclusion of people with disabilities in our society.

Let’s take a quick break.

You are listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia. Welcome back. We are kicking off disability pride month. Marty and I were just at a conference. We were invited to come and give our Ableism speech at… 

Marty Anderson: The Governor’s Council on developmental disabilities.

Alycia Anderson:  And in the audience, it was so cool. There is a wide range of people who were either disabled themselves or also advocates or allies for disability in some way. I got up on stage and I was giving my ableism speech. 

But I am not giving this speech often to our peers, you know, so the first thing… that was, like, very interesting was it felt good to get on stage and say “we and us” instead of “me” trying to have this conversation with people that were not within our community. 

Marty Anderson: We were in front of our peers. However, we were in front of a lot of people with developmental disabilities, even though we have disabilities ourselves, it is we are a community. We feel that connection, no matter what, and this just happens.

Alycia Anderson:   So, this is kind of like a good reflection of what disability pride, really is, in action. So, I am up on stage, and I am giving this talk. The crowd is alive. I mean, they are engaging. They are smiling. They are just really into the message of disabling ableism, and there is this moment where I start talking about, like, we can believe, in possible, and how do we become visible? And, so we start cheering and like having this moment, and then all of a sudden, the audience started taking turns raising their hands and yelling what they wanted society to know about them.

They just started screaming I can, hire me, listen to me, see me, believe in me, invite me, care for me, let me try, give me an opportunity…

The room was just electric and people with all types of disabilities yelling out what they can do and how proud they are to be who they are, the way that they are. 

Marty Anderson: Speaking of pride, as your husband and business associate, I was pretty proud of you to witness that. I am generally the one taking pictures and trying to capture every moment, and I remember just looking at you in that room that was encompassing 3 ballrooms and four screens and 400 people. Spread about and the unabashed spirit that you have summoned within the crowd, your experience of speaking and believing in the messages that you are delivering.

And like you said, it is a mixed message because it is overcoming all the doubt. It is overcoming the the non-belief in what we can do. And I think that is what really captured that crowd. They listened to the struggles of the no way and absolutely nots, do not do this, do not do that, and with your message of we need to set all that aside and not believe [in that but rather] believe in ourselves and believe in what is possible. And it did stir the crowd. Just amazing.

Alycia Anderson:  If I could. Use your words. When we were talking about this it. Was unfiltered jubilation, unabashed spirit. It was a very organic moment of what disability pride is, which is being unapologetically proud of who you are, the way that you are, even if nobody else in society sees you that way.

It was self-advocacy. And it was lifting up the beauty and the possibility of this life that each of us have and that we are experiencing. 

Marty Anderson: It is just amazing that we are living this life. After this speech to just watch you be swarmed by groups of people that wanted to come take a picture with you, wanted to share their personal experiences and wanted to be a part of your life. And then you know, I mean for us to go from Wyoming and then in the same week to New York and to be a part of another summit on disability leadership.

It just shows you that there is a lot of pride out there for disability.

Alycia Anderson: There’s a lot of pride and there is a lot of work. I sat with this. Girl, she was probably. Mid 20s, who had down syndrome and she was amazing. She was like dressed to the nines with a new sequined dress. She was so proud to be who she was in this space, excited to be at this conference with her peers. Totally related to the message that I was giving, but on the flip side of it, it brought her to tears because, you know, she just started saying things like my parents do not listen to me.

My family does not include me. They do not believe what I say. They do not think that I am giving the correct opinion all the way to things like I did not get to go to prom. I do not have the friends that my other friends have. Like I, you know, and she was just. So emotional, like raw emotion and the fact… this is… it is a really hard path to be living in a society that looks at you through an ableist lens. 

Marty Anderson: That was.

Alycia Anderson:  That disability is bad, and what we need to do is disable that and turn on looking at disability for what it is, something to be proud of, because it is who we are and that is what disability pride is. 

Marty Anderson: And I think disability pride is also. That moment that you were able to share with that young lady and offer your friendship and your shoulder as a peer, you know, for her to open up to and it just goes to show that even in our lives, even sometimes the closest people to us can be a barrier to us from being who we want to be, We so often hope, that it’s the opposite, that those close people are the ones that are going to be lifting us up.

But it is just another multifaceted look at that and all the complexities that we face as people with disabilities.

Alycia Anderson:  Hence the importance of celebrating a month, so we can start to have more opportunities to look within ourselves and start to shine a bright light on the diversity and the beauty and the power and the possibility of the disabled community, because it is a massive community.

And the more we celebrate it, and the more we expose it and the more we talk about it and see it and experience it, the more we normalize it and believe in it.

And then there isn’t a question at the beginning of July, why are we celebrating disability pride? Why would you do that? And so, Marty, what is your advice? 

Marty Anderson: We should celebrate those who have come before us and been advocates. Who is your favorite advocate with a disability?

Alycia Anderson:  Oh, that is a hard question. Definitely from like a historical perspective, Judy Huemann who was the queen of the disability rights movement and one of the founding people that pushed forward, ADA and all the legislation that we have. She is somebody that I look up to as from, like a disability advocacy perspective, but I mean this month we have so many amazing people with disabilities coming on [the podcast].

We have got a five-time TEDx speaker and comedian. We have got the senior manager of DEI from Etsy. We have got Brad Parks, who I was just going to say is one of my mentors, the founder of wheelchair tennis. 

Marty Anderson: Hall of Famer.

Alycia Anderson:  To celebrate this month, we are amplifying people pushing through adversity and pushing through the challenges that might come along with their varying disabilities. 

Marty Anderson: And that is one of the great things about the podcast. That you have created. It gives us the opportunity to have these conversations and bring out the gems that are hiding within our stories and share with everyone about it.

I would be remiss if I did not say that one of my favorite disability advocates, we just lost last week. Dee Henry, a great, great advocate of wheelchair tennis alongside Brad Parks in Southern California. Who was the women’s coach of the Biola University women’s team for so long and had also put on over four decades of wheelchair tennis and adaptive tennis lessons on a weekly basis well into her 80s, possibly 90s.

Alycia Anderson:  This might sound cliche, but you inspire me too, because your heart is always so open for. Just every time we see anybody with a disability, you run up to them and say, like hey, can I tell you about this? Let me teach you this. I wanted to share all the things that are possible. 

Marty Anderson: Thank you very much and I do have a very soft spot in my heart for people with disabilities. And that comes from just growing up with an entire lifetime of a disability and all the situations that we have been in. We see people that are blind, people that have hearing impairments, people that are facing different challenges, quadriplegia, paraplegia, spinal cord injury, and on, and on, and on, and on.

Alycia Anderson:  OK, so I think we should lay down the gauntlet as we wrap up this episode. First of all, we challenge you to keep tuning in all through the month to celebrate disability pride with us. But we also want to throw down a gauntlet and give you a challenge to do something to disable ableism in your own lives this month.

Get involved with this podcast or others, hire a guest speaker at one of your companies, subscribe or listen or follow other disabled advocate influencers. 

Marty Anderson: And this podcast.

Alycia Anderson:  This podcast for sure. 

Marty Anderson: Suggest guest speakers.

Alycia Anderson:  Hire people with disabilities. Start employee resource groups. Think about going beyond compliance within a work environment. Creating larger spaces of accessibility and access to your companies, front-end and back-end, encourage learning.

Start chipping away at the work of including people with disabilities. Sometimes it can seem daunting and there is this saying in disability advocacy, practice over perfection. And so, you know, we start practicing these things and we get better and better, and it starts expanding and we are all celebrating disability. 

Marty Anderson: Yeah, and disability pride is about lifting those challenges we face up as the valuable attributes we can leverage in our lives to adapt and create a new way and innovate and move forward from what we have been thinking is the only way.

Alycia Anderson:  And moving forward, the only way to do that? Is you push forward.

Marty Anderson: One push at a time.

Alycia Anderson:  One push at a time. Thank you, Marty, for being a guest. Thank you so much to our listeners, this is Pushing Forward with Alycia, and that is how we roll on this podcast.