For Tiffany Yu, Disability Pride Month is about recognizing her disability as an integral part of who she is. For Anthony Rios, it's about accepting that his disability makes him different, not worse.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, a landmark law that prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. In that same year, Boston held the first Disability Pride Day.
Although Disability Pride Day isn't nationally recognized, parades are held in a number of places nationwide, such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, San Antonio and more. In 2015, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared July Disability Pride Month in celebration of the ADA’s 25th anniversary.
The month is a chance to honor each person's uniqueness as "a natural and beautiful part of human diversity," according to America's Disability Community.
Moving away from 'special needs': Disability advocates, experts implore you to stop saying 'special needs'
Rios, who is blind, said he grew up hearing his family and adults talk about his disability as if it were a disease or burden. When he was 10, he recalls his mother praying and asking God why her son was "cursed" with blindness. As he grew older and found friends within the disabled community, Rios said he learned to accept and thrive with his blindness.
Every July, Rios said he's reminded that he doesn't need the sympathy of others – just the acceptance of his disability.
"We don't want your pity. We want your pride," Rios told USA TODAY.
When she was 9, Yu was in a car accident that paralyzed one of her arms and took her father's life. For years, Yu tried to hide her disability by wearing long-sleeve shirts and refusing to talk about the accident. She later developed post-traumatic stress disorder and took on the challenge of healing and accepting herself.
"So not only did I become disabled, I also lost a parent and experienced childhood trauma. I think that so much of my healing process has been really experiencing the full embodiment of who I can be and who I am," Yu told USA TODAY. "So this month is about people with disabilities like me falling in love with themselves."
Conversations about disabilities: Britney Spears forced IUD sparks important conversations about disability
This Disability Pride Month she hopes to celebrate the small wins and joys in life, such as learning to curl her hair with the assistance of her foot. She hopes to bring pride to the term "disabled" and awareness to ableism, the discrimination of people with disabilities.
"I want people to confront what creates ableism and why they don't like the word disabled because in reality, there is nothing evil or wrong with being disabled," said Yu, founder of Diversability and Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter.
Rebecca Cokley said she was fortunate to grow up in a home that didn't make her feel different or as an outcast. Cokley and her parents have achondroplasia, a type of bone growth disorder that results in dwarfism. Although most of her friends with disabilities weren't welcomed in their communities, they were welcomed in Cokley's home. So in her adult life and professional work, Cokley strives to provide those safe spaces for everybody.
For her, Disability Pride Month is not only about embracing disabilities but also learning to love yourself on hard days.
"For me this month is not only about celebrating disabilities but remembering there's going to be days where you won't always love your disability, and that's OK too," Cokley said.
When celebrating Disability Pride Month, Jessica Ping-Wild urges people to listen and amplify voices from people with disabilities. She said the community is hurting from a lack of representation and care from able-bodied people.
Ping-Wild has CHILD syndrome, a rare inherited disorder that causes limb underdevelopment or absence and large patches of skin to become inflamed. She said celebrating this month is important because everyone deserves to feel good about the skin they're in and everyone experiences disability differently. The community is diverse, and everyone deserves a voice, Ping-Wild said.
"To me, Disability Pride is many things. It's a chance for disabled people to declare their inherent self-worth, something that isn't often done by individuals outside of the community. It's a chance for the disabled community to come together, uplift, and amplify one another," Ping-Wild, founder of The Rolling Explorer blog, told USA TODAY. "Perhaps most importantly, it's a time for us all to make a whole lot of noise in the fight for disability justice."
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How Disability Pride Month started and what it means