​Be Proud

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on June 13, 2022 # Relationships, Lifestyle

Howard and PatrickThis is the month that is designated as LGBTQ Pride Month. It commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising when LGBTQ people fought back against police harassment, societal prejudice, and discriminatory laws across the nation. It was the beginning of the modern-day LGBTQ movement for equality and equal rights.

That battle is not over, but we in the disability community can learn much from the history and the successes of the LGBTQ movement. For those of us who proudly count ourselves in both communities, the parallels are often obvious and enlightening.

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that people living with paralysis face discrimination every day. Sometimes it is over, like when other people hurl demeaning comments our way, or make fun of our wheelchairs or assistive devices. Some days the discrimination takes a less obvious form, like hotel rooms that are sold as “ADA rooms” but are not truly accessible, or we are asked to use credit card machines on sales counters that are far too high for us to reach.

I have heard people say to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, “What do you have to be proud of? Aren’t you always saying you were ‘born that way?’ I have also heard people say that those of us with disabilities have just been “dealt a bad hand in life” and that we don’t have anything to be proud of. But those people could not be more wrong. We should be proud. We ARE proud.

Like the LGBTQ community, we have fought, and continue to fight, for fairness and against discriminatory practices. And we have won. There is a lot more to do, but just think of how our lives would be different if there were no Americans With Disabilities Act.

And by winning, we make the world a better place. This may sound grossly overstated, but hear me out: because we are treated as equal citizens, we take part in our democracy and make it stronger. By being able to work and engage in our workplaces, the companies and organizations we work for are stronger and better. Because we are heard, people who did not even realize they were discriminating have changed their ways, not only when it comes to people with disabilities but also towards others they previously treated as “outsiders” or as lesser than they are. And most importantly, because we love and are loved, we bring so much positive energy and love into the world.

We have formed a community that is justifiably proud of the way we support and encourage, and inspire others facing the challenges of disabilities. When individuals who are newly injured or people who are exhausted by difficult aspects of their lives can see the examples of others with paralysis leading full and rich lives, they are given hope.

At the beginning of Pride Month, I saw this image:

It was created to send a message within the LGBTQ community, but it applies equally to the disability community. We can all serve as inspiration, as examples of how to live with a disability, to not give up and feel our lives are over. We can be mentors, counselors, and friends. We can literally save lives. We don’t need to be famous movie stars like Christopher Reeve. We just need to be ourselves. And Be Proud.

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.