Statement by Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo) on Disability Pride Month

(July 28, 2022)

Every July since 1990, Americans have celebrated Disability Pride Month and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The month serves as a celebration of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, invisible and undiagnosed disabilities, chronic illness, physical disabilities, mental illness, and sensory disabilities. By amplifying these voices and promoting visibility, Disability Pride Month recognizes the achievements of Americans with disabilities and honors the right of all Americans to live in an inclusive society. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is proud to join this annual celebration. Through our grantmaking programs, NEH supports the preservation of disability history and experience, the exploration of disability and identity through the humanities, and the expansion of access through assistive technology at cultural institutions.

This year, NEH has funded a diverse collection of projects related to disability. In August 2022, 25 educators from across the country will participate in Wayne State University’s NEH-funded “Disability and Identity in History, Literature, and Media” summer institute, learning from humanities scholars and creating lesson plans for K–12 students to explore disability and identity in the classroom. This summer, three scholars used summer stipends from the Division of Research Programs to work on books exploring disability representation in literature, the role of community care in a just society, and the eugenics policies of Nazi Germany. Using funding from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities’ New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions, teams from the University of Michigan and University of Westminster in the United Kingdom are conducting a pilot study to increase access to digitally available museum audio interpretation, addressing ableism in cultural institutions, and working to make the humanities and arts more accessible to all.

Through these and many more projects, NEH has worked alongside disability scholars and advocates to tell a more complete story of the American experience. At their core, the humanities are the ideas and stories that ground us and our place in this world, interpreted through language and linguistics, literature, ethics, philosophy, history, and beyond. The humanities, and by extension NEH, have a key role to play in supporting disability rights in the United States and fostering a more just society for disabled people.

It is vital that disabled authors, scholars, and filmmakers apply for NEH grants and access agency programs, empowering them to tell their own stories and share their unique perspectives. Despite the fact that an estimated 1 in 4 American adults lives with a disability, many that may be invisible, too often the stories of the disabled community go unheard.

As Chair of NEH, my priority is to create more opportunities for all Americans to benefit from and participate in humanities-centered research, education, and programs. We know that when we see ourselves and our experiences reflected in our classrooms, museums, and media, it instills in us a sense of not only belonging but pride.

As we recognize the historic passage of the ADA 32 years ago this week, NEH, alongside the White House and fellow federal agencies, is pleased to celebrate Disability Pride Month this and every July, while working with universities and schools, cultural institutions, and individuals year-round to continue to explore and document disability in America. Learn more about disability-related projects funded by NEH in the Disability Pride Month virtual bookshelf and the 2022 project updates.