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Autism Infinity Awareness Symbol, which is an infinity symbol in rainbow colors)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Disability Pride Month is celebrated in July to commemorate this landmark legislation.

We asked Amy Ouellette, ECI Independent Living Coordinator, to share her experiences with the ADA and what disability pride means to her:

As an adult on the autism spectrum/Autistic Adult who possess an education and employment background in the human services field, which I realize is statistically not typical of most Autistic Adults/adults on the autism spectrum, due to unemployment and underemployment rates statistically being significantly higher for people with all disability types than for those without disabilities, the ADA, especially Title I related to employment, to me, is a lifeline. 

[The ADA] has kept me from and is still keeping me from being fired on the basis of being Autistic/on the autism spectrum, especially with no other justifiable cause. It has saved me from being denied employment opportunities, including an internship I was almost let go from in college (advocating for myself and disclosing my disability to my surprise at the time prevented me from being let go from my internship!), based on my being Autistic/an adult on the autism spectrum.

I know that by law as a result, even if an employer ever wanted to refuse employment to me at any stage of the employment process based on my autism diagnosis, I know I possess the legal and civil rights to sue the employer(s) and pursue the necessary steps to obtain justice for myself if I ever faced employment discrimination, including being fired on the basis of disability. 

To me, disability pride means being proud of who I am as a person with a disability, realizing having a disability is as something to be proud of as any other part of me is, and knowing there is strength in disability, even when a society that predominantly has no disability experience at all perceives disability to be weakness. An example of this in my own life is having to admit that even though to others, I may seem like “I have my life together” and that I “overcame” disability, disability is something I have grown in to (in addition to being on the autism spectrum, I also have the respective disabilities of type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder, and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and that disability is a strength, especially in my current role as an Independent Living Coordinator here, not as a weakness to grow out of, cure, or fix. 

My relationship with recognizing disability in me as a strength and not as a weakness to grow out of, cure, or fix is easier on some days than others. This is especially because even though society has come a long way in accepting and accommodating disability, society still has a long way to go in not viewing disability as inherently bad, weak, or something that automatically needs to be fixed or cured. 

With that being said, when I need a boost in my disability pride, an image that comes to mind for me is the rainbow colored, autism infinity symbol (Editor’s Note: for more information about the autism infinity symbol, click here). 

Picture of ECI staff member Amy Ouellette in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
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