SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Disability Pride Month is annually observed during the month of July to promote visibility and awareness of the positive pride felt by people with disabilities. People with disabilities are the largest and most diverse group within the population, representing all abilities, ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds. Yet, advocates say disability is often overlooked in broad diversity initiatives.

Everyone will likely experience disability at some point in their life, whether it’s from an accident, an illness, or aging. Not all disabilities are visible, but can be just as challenging as physical disabilities. Experts say there is still tremendous stigma around invisible disabilities and people struggling to “pass” in order to avoid disclosing their disability status. As a result, they often struggle with mental and emotional health issues.

According to an article by USA Today, its history stems back to July 26, 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. In the same year, the city of Boston celebrated the first Disability Pride Day. In 2015, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared July as Disability Pride Month in celebration of the ADA’s 25th anniversary.

Kelie Hess, the Utah School to Work program coordinator at the Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice at Utah State University, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. She talked about what disability pride means to her, expanding disability pride by shifting societal perceptions of disability, how our community can work towards social change, what accessibility really means, and how we can write a new narrative on what life with a disability can look like.

Eric Stoker, information specialist for the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council, shared what it means to be a self-advocate, why it’s important to include people with disabilities in the workplace, his thoughts on inclusion in the community, the talents that people with disabilities have, and the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act as its 31st anniversary approaches.

Matthew Wappett, executive director of the Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice at Utah State University, discussed his center’s role and function, disability as a universal human experience, disability as an aspect of diversity, stigmas that still exist for people with disabilities, invisible disabilities, how mental health falls under the scope of disability and how it relates to masculinity.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Hess, Stoker, and Wappett, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.