Everyone else seems to have a flag, so why don’t disabled people?

Patrick C. Walsh Author of the Mac Maguire crime series

A new Disability flag?

To me it seems as if disabled people are being overlooked again. I didn’t think about this until quite recently when I was looking for something else and came across a Disabled Pride flag in Google images. It had the now well-known rainbow flag in the background and had the also well-known wheelchair logo in the foreground. This made my teeth grind.

I’m not in a wheelchair (yet) and many of the disabled people I am in contact with aren’t either. So, the wheelchair logo is, at best, irrelevant for many of us and, at worst, inferring that if you’re not in a wheelchair then maybe you’re not really disabled. Everyone who is disabled will know that look that you often get when you dare to walk from a car that’s parked in a disabled space. I have a crutch and I still get sour looks. In the ADCI group we recognize that disability is a spectrum of issues and, as well as visible disabilities, this spectrum also includes invisible conditions such as –

  • Neurodiverse conditions (e.g. Autism, Dylsexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia etc)
  • Mental Health issues
  • Brain injury
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision impairment
  • Long term health issues such as Chronic Fatigue (ME/CFS), Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Pain, Fibromyalgia, Long Covid etc etc etc
  • and many, many more

Disabilities that tend to be more visible, such as mobility impairment and missing limbs, are indeed just the tip of the disability iceberg. If one in seven of us can claim to have some sort of disability then how come we still don’t have our own flag? Symbols are important and none more so than a flag.

The Gay Pride rainbow flag is a case in point. Like disabilities ‘gayness’ can come in many flavours. It was originally designed by Gilbert Baker who was a male gay-rights activist. The flag has now come to mean so much more and represents many people who do not identify as ‘straight’ such as bisexuals, transsexuals and even people who are ‘questioning’ and aren’t quite sure exactly where they stand. As with disabilities, ‘gayness’ is a spectrum.

It’s a sad fact that disabled people are too used to being overlooked, literally if you are in a wheelchair. I also think that we’re just a little too accepting at times too. When we’re marching for our rights we need a flag. When we’re writing about disabilities online or in print, we need a symbol such as, say, a flag. When it’s Disability Awareness Day we need to fly the flag. If, like me, you weren’t aware that it was July 18th last year then this proves how much we need a flag.

If you agree with this then we come to the hard part. What might it look like? It has to be simple and it doesn’t necessarily need to be representative. As with the rainbow flag, people will learn what it means once it is universally adopted as symbol. I’m no designer but I’m going to have a crack. You can see the flag at the top of the page. T.S. Eliot once said that “good writers borrow, great writers steal.” I’m no ‘great writer’ but I’m going to do some stealing.

Chris Crawford at a high school in the USA came up with a design featuring the mathematical symbol for infinity. The infinity symbol has also been used by many organisations for issues such as Autism Awareness and so I’m going to steal that too. The symbol is gold-coloured to show that everyone, whatever their disability, is valuable. Purple, as a colour, has been used to identify with disability issues e.g. the ‘purple pound/dollar’ being money spent by people with disabilities. I’ve simply put these together.

I like simple.

I’m not insisting that this flag is the solution. If you can come up with something better and more intuitive then please do so. We need a flag to rally around and we need it now.

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