Disability Pride Is Hard:

CW: Crime & Sexual Assault

July is Disability Pride Month. As someone with Cerebral Palsy, this month is challenging. I embrace my disability. As I’ve grown up, I’ve become more comfortable with my disability. I am no longer ashamed of my disability. As a child, I didn’t like my disability. Cerebral Palsy is a part of my life.

The United States makes disability pride hard at times. Many disabled people who rely on programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are still unable to marry without having their benefits reduced or eliminated entirely. Because I receive both SSI, and Medicaid, I may never be able to get married. I rely on Medicaid to live in my apartment through the PCA program. Marriage equality should exist for everyone. 

 Carrie Buck was placed in a state mental hospital because she was “feeble-minded.” Her condition had been passed down through three generations of her family. In order to improve “the health of the patient and the welfare of society,” a Virginia statute permitted the forcible sterilization of hospital patients. On May 2, 1927, the Court ruled 8-1 that Buck’s sterilization was in the best interest of the state due to the fact that Buck, her mother, and her daughter were all deemed to be “promiscuous” and “feeble-minded.” State law states that between 1927 and 1972, 8,300 sterilizations were carried out. Despite her diagnosis, Buck led a full life after leaving the institution and continued to do so until her death in 1983. 

Buck v. Bell was never overturned. The forced sterilization of disabled women is still legal in many states. Buck v. Bell’s argument has been severely weakened by subsequent case law and a rising appreciation of the importance of procedural protections to protect the privacy rights that sterilization jeopardizes. 

People with disabilities are also more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than those without disabilities. When compared to individuals without disabilities, people with disabilities generally encounter more violent crimes. The National Crime Victim Survey indicated in 2008 that people with disabilities experience greater rates of violence than those without disabilities (40 victimizations per 1,000 persons with disabilities compared to around 20 per 1,000 without disabilities), and that the incidence of victimization is twice as high for people with disabilities. Another troubling discovery was that those with cognitive disabilities (or intellectual disabilities) were at the the highest risk of being a victim of a violent crime.

People with disabilities typically have a tough time finding work. Disabled people who are employed sometimes make less than minimum wage when working in sheltered workshops. The average hourly pay for those working in these settings is only $3.34. Being paid less than the minimum wage for some individuals with disabilities is permitted by American labor law since 1938, therefore subminimum wage is entirely legal. During the Great Depression, this law was initially created to encourage more people to find a job. By allowing the subminimum wage to continue in 2022, America is treating those with disabilties as if they are second class citizens.

It is hard to be proud of my disability when I, along with millions of other Americans, don’t have equal rights. It’s 2022, and disabled people should have the same rights as everyone else. I am frustrated that Americans with disabilities are still denied rights such as marriage. Americans with disabilities should never have to worry about how they’re treated.


Antonios, Nathalie, and Christina Raup. “Buck v. Bell (1927).” The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Arizona State University, 1 Jan. 2012, embryo.asu.edu/pages/buck-v-bell-1927. 

Rand, Michael, and Erika Harrell. “Crime against people with disabilities, 2008.” (2010).

Shapiro, Joseph. “The Sexual Assault Epidemic No One Talks About.” NPR, NPR, 8 Jan. 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/01/08/570224090/the-sexual-assault-epidemic-no-one-talks-about.

Selyukh, Alina. “Workers with Disabilities Can Earn JUST $3.34 an HOUR. Agency Says Law Needs Change.” NPR, NPR, 17 Sept. 2020, http://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/912840482/u-s-agency-urges-end-to-below-minimum-wage-for-workers-with-disabilities.

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