Disability Awareness Month

Oct 08, 2014
Tagged with: Disability Awareness Month

It is no secret that Americans love to create holidays. We jump at the chance to talk like a pirate or order a free cup of coffee, but we also take pride in bringing awareness to topics that are near to our hearts. Almost every day of the year is dedicated to an animal, food group, or cause that we deem worthy of celebration. October is a month that is largely dedicated to bringing awareness to different types of disabilities. During this month we celebrate spina bifida awareness, Down syndrome awareness, as well as cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus day.

In addition to raising awareness about these disabilities, activists also strive to raise funds to increase research and in some cases, find a cure for a specific disability. While it is important that we have advanced medical care for individuals with disabilities, I believe that a disability awareness campaign should not be centered on finding a cure.

There are two main models regarding the topic of disability – the medical model and the social model. The medical model views a person’s disability as a problem or barrier to full participation in society. In order to fix the problem, the disability must be cured or fixed. The social model, on the other hand, does not view a disability as a problem or barrier. For example, if an individual with a disability is unable to enter a restaurant, it is not because he uses a wheelchair, but because there is not ramp or accessible entrance. Too often we organize disability awareness campaigns under the medical model. In order to achieve awareness and ultimately respect, we must promote the idea that disability is not a problem we must fix, but a reality we must accept and embrace.

October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In honor of this event, President Obama issued a declaration that begins,


“Americans with disabilities lead thriving businesses, teach our children, and serve our Nation; they are innovators and pioneers of technology.  In urban centers and rural communities, they carry forward our Nation’s legacy of hard work, responsibility, and sacrifice, and their contributions strengthen our economy and remind us that all Americans deserve the opportunity to participate fully in society.  During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we celebrate the Americans living with disabilities, including significant disabilities, who enrich our country, and we reaffirm the simple truth that each of us has something to give to the American story.”


This proclamation focuses on the contributions people with disabilities give to society – a thought that is not always first in our minds. It celebrates disability as a positive attribute that does not diminish a person’s success. It not only promotes disability awareness, it promotes disability.

So I vote that during this month, as we focus on all of our different disabilities, we do not simply ask for donations or organize 5Ks. I propose we, as people with disabilities, volunteer in our communities, join a local gym, or hold a door open for others. Sure, things may not always be accessible or ideal, but in order to change society’s mindset of disability from the medical to the social model, we must show society that it is not our disability that affects our independence.


Author: Mary Allison Cook

  • bobl07

    A book that I recommend for everyone that touches on this topic is “Nothing about Us, Without Us” by James Charlton. It very much deals with the changing culture of disability in regards to social model from a global perspective.