My Journey with Disability Pride

By Dawna Callahan

As we approach Disability Pride Month in July, I am gearing up to celebrate a significant milestone in my own life as well. Next month, I will celebrate 50 years of being a member of the disabled community. And yes, I AM that old, and my journey the last 50 years has been a long and wild ride!

Upon reflection, I am struck by how quickly time flies and the progress that I have witnessed first-hand over the last 50 years. From being the first student with a physical disability in my hometown school district to be mainstreamed (even before the Rehab Act was enacted) to the signing of landmark legislation with the ADA as I began graduate school, these milestones would have a profound impact for many years to come.

Then, as my career progressed, I gained professional experience in both human resources and the adapted sport industry, and expanded my perspective even further, seeing the challenges our community – from professionals to athletes and everyone in between – faces on a daily basis. Over the years, I acquired the expertise, confidence, and valuable lived experience to start All In Sport Consulting, knowing I could help advance the adapted sport and disability communities even further.

When I think about Disability Pride, it makes me wonder, “Have I always been proud to be a member of the disabled community? Have I celebrated my disability?” As a child growing up with a disability and typically being the only one within my group of friends with a disability, I can’t say that my disability was something I was all that excited about celebrating.

Now, as a professional and a business owner, I appreciate the unique voice and perspective my disability has provided me as a leader and advocate in the industry. My voice comes from a place of passion, authenticity, and commitment derived from an enduring desire for equity. And now, 50 years into this fight for equity, I have an overwhelming sense of urgency for progress!

When you’ve been at it for this long, patience can sometimes wear thin and frustration can set in. After all, we’re only human! But, I have found to make progress in this movement, one must be steadfast, tenacious, enduring, and compassionate. I now celebrate and am proud that these strengths and qualities come from my experience as a disabled female.

A business partner recently shared with me, “Dawna, the broader sport industry needs All In Sport Consulting. They need you tapping them on the shoulder reminding them that they need to be inclusive of the disability community.”

This is how I celebrate my disability pride – if my lived experience, expertise, and professional endeavors can help more disabled athletes or fans experience the power of sport, then all the speaking out, advocacy, and effort the last 50 years has been well worth it. We have much more work to do, so here’s to many, many more!

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