July is Disability Pride Month: Celebrating the ADA’s Passage

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed 32 years ago on July 26, 1990. That date marked decades of activism from the disability community for equal treatment. In commemoration of the historic act, July marks Disability Pride Month for people with disabilities in the United States.

What is Disability Pride?

Eli Clare describes disability pride as a call to action, something that “particularly isn’t about individuals or fame or being a celebrity but rather about communal struggle, rebellion, and joy” (2010). Disabled World defines disability pride as “accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity…an integral part of movement-building, and a direct challenge of systemic ableism and stigmatizing definitions of disability” (2015). No matter what definition you prefer, disability pride highlights the differences amongst the human race – not as lesser, but as equal. Disability pride highlights individuals who view their disability as an inherent part of their identity, as part of what makes an individual, well, an individual.

A disability diagnosis can result in mixed feelings. Disability pride questions why our society sees disability as inherently negative and highlights the triumphs of the disabled community.

The Legal History of the ADA

The social conditions that allowed the ADA to be signed are the result of thousands of advocates’ work over several decades. From a legal perspective, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act marked a shift in public policy. This section prohibited disability discrimination in organizations that received federal funding. Finally, the federal government acknowledged disability discrimination, modeling Section 504 after other discrimination laws for race, sex, and ethnic origin. Disabled people were viewed as a marginalized group instead of separating people into groups based on diagnosis. This legislation, as well as continuous activism, helped pave the way for the ADA (Mayerson, 1992).

Disability Pride Parades

Disability pride parades are held by the disability community to celebrate the community, the culture behind disability, and to educate participants about disability-related issues. The first parade was held in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1990. The parade continued in 1991 and paused after the death of its founder, Diana Viets (Ping-Wild, 2021). Disability pride parades have appeared in multiple cities around the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and New York City (American Autism Association, 2021). New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio also declared July as Disability Pride Month in the city (Ping-Wild, 2021).

Suggestions to Celebrate Disability Pride Month

There are a variety of ways to celebrate Disability Pride Month over the next few weeks. If you are able, consider donating to a disability advocacy organization to support the ongoing efforts to combat the ableism and discrimination still present in our society. There are also content creators who provide free or low-cost content to educate their audience about disability-related issues. Further, search for disability pride events in your area or online to further celebrate disability pride. Finally, while many individuals are eager to get “back to normal” after two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, consider ways that you can minimize risks for the disabled and immunocompromised individuals you may come into contact with. Many disabled individuals have emphasized that living with COVID is not an option for them and that many of the accommodations in the early days of the pandemic are no longer available (such as attending classes or working virtually (Charlton-Dailey, 2022).

Disability pride month is a wonderful opportunity to learn about and celebrate the vibrant disability community. The fight for equal treatment of people with disabilities is far from over. But this month, the community celebrates what it has accomplished.


~ Nikita Williams is an I/O Psychology graduate student and gothamCulture intern. Disability issues are her area of interest and she wrote another article on this topic “Why businesses need to talk about disability and accessibility.”


American Autism Association. (2021). Celebrating Disability Pride Month — American Autism Association. https://www.myautism.org/news-features/celebrating-disability-pride-month

Charlton-Dailey, R. (2022, January 14). Op-Ed: Disabled People Can’t Learn to Live With COVID. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/disabled-people-cant-learn-to-live-with-covid-5215746

Clare, E. (2010). Disability pride. Retrieved from http://eliclare.com/disability/disability-pride

Disabled World. (2015, July 3). Disability Pride: Definition and Awareness Information. Disabled World. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from www.disabled-world.com/definitions/disability-pride.php

Mayerson, A. (1992). The History of ADA. Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. https://dredf.org/about-us/publications/the-history-of-the-ada/

Ping-Wild, J. (2021). Everything You Need To Know About Disability Pride Month in 2021. The Rolling Explorer. https://therollingexplorer.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-disability-pride-month-in-2020/

There is No Limit to What People Will Let You Do For Them

Giving hands

I am privileged to work with leaders throughout the world in a dozen different industries and professions.  A very common theme is that their workload and job demands are never-ending.

Indeed, they feel as if there are no limits to what others expect from them – or what others will let them do.

I met with a client a while ago, using a video call.  As I opened the link, I was surprised to see worry lines across the person’s face with sunken, almost hollow, eyes.  And there was a look of discouragement and a weight I had not noticed before.

In our first moments together, I concentrated on checking in with the client, learning the challenges they faced and the issues confronting them each day.  It was not surprising to hear that the client was working seven days a week – often 12 hours a day.  Everyone from the boss to peers and direct reports seemed to be sapping time and energy from my client.

My client is one of the most capable professionals I have known and is deeply appreciated by colleagues.  This had emerged from confidential interviews I had conducted as well as from a comprehensive Denison Leadership Development 360.  In the early days of our engagement, my client told me about a commitment of being there for family, friends, the company, and the community. Themes were beginning to emerge. Read More…

What you Don’t Know About Project Management

Projcect Management - Chess

As we work our way through the professional ranks, some may aspire to become a project manager. The thought of managing million-dollar projects, meeting with customers, developing schedules, and hiring the right people for the internal team seems exciting. Often, project management seems like a “well-oiled” machine to the outside observer because the process may seem systematic and one step leads to the next, which culminates in a final product that is delivered under budget and ahead of schedule.

When in the role of project manager, it quickly becomes clear that the machine is frequently in need of oil in so many places and there is no time to stop and fix it. Yes, projects are completed at or under budget and we definitely deliver each one on time. However, to meet these goals, we spend a lot of time doing everything we can to keep the machine moving forward.

Often, project management feels like being an expediter.

We simultaneously focus our attention on the needs of team members, customers, scheduling, deliverables, “pop-up” tasks, and those tasks that only the project manager can perform. On slow days, we may only touch two or three areas listed above but we may touch these areas on several different projects. During the weeks when every day is a Monday, we touch all areas on all projects that we manage and some areas that we do not even anticipate. We have to keep products moving, the team members tasked, and emails answered while attend kickoff meetings, update meetings, project meetings, and staffing meetings.

Then, there are the unanticipated tasks and meetings that start 15 minutes after the invite arrives.

The unanticipated requires a project management style that is flexible, responsive, thoughtful, proactive, and versed in all areas of the project. It is not necessary to know every detail of each project, but it is important to know enough about the work that is being done and the status to be able to respond to any request that the customer presents.

When not responding to customer requests, the expert project manager is anticipating “what’s next,” to determine risks and potential schedule overruns and adjusting resources to minimize the event.

The initiative-taking project manager is checking with team members to determine their needs and providing solutions to their questions. In addition, this project manager is alerting the customer to upcoming project phases and scheduling planning meetings to discuss processes, approvals, and other actions that may be required in the future, which ensure the project continues moving forward because the way forward has already been discussed and approved.

Project management is not always as organized or structured as it might look to the observer. Project management, even in the best organizations, often resembles a chess match but at a much faster pace. A good project manager must be proactive and strategic when deciding what must be addressed immediately and what can wait. The ability to communicate effectively with a variety of personalities, use critical thinking skills to solve complex, multilayer problems, have the foresight to identify potential risks and manage them before they jeopardize the project, and to let the experts on the team take control of their work without micromanaging are just some of the traits of a successful project manager.

The Relationship Between Your “Center” and Your Confidence

Find your center

“Do you need to find your center to discover your confidence, or do you first find your confidence in order to be centered?”

I asked a client this question once during a session.

It first elicited a look of surprise, then a slight smile, followed by a long moment of reflection and silence.  I sat quietly attending to the client, providing time for that pause to allow self-reflection and a building of awareness.

The answer began to emerge in a series of statements interspersed with thoughtful looks from the client:

“Well, I guess I never thought about it…”

“I think I’m always confident, but then again your question makes me think that I am not sure what being centered means…”

“Maybe they are both so interrelated that I didn’t notice the distinction.”

The conversation continued:

“What does ‘being centered’ mean to you?” I asked.

“Well, it means I experience a feeling of firm ground, understanding the issues I am facing and the people with whom I interact,” the client answered.

“Tell me more” I said. Read More…

What’s the Formula for Success?

Formula for Success

In speaking with potential clients, I often get a question like the title of this blog. Questions abound, in fact, including: “Are there steps I should take to change?” or “What should I do to succeed as a leader?”

As a coach who deals with unique individuals (and, of course, we’re all unique), my responses are filled not with answers, but with curiosity and interest in the personal and professional journey of the other person.

There have been thousands of books written on leadership. Every succeeding year brings even more. While each has value and can offer perspective, books alone cannot provide the unique approach that a unique individual needs to support their life’s journey. This is where individual one-on-one coaching enters the picture. Though I have not authored a “how-to” book of leadership, I can provide tools and approaches that will help individuals become aware of their own areas that are well-developed, as well as those that are developing or less developed.

Here’s the thing. A coach can provide a “safe container” in a confidential setting, inviting a client to celebrate their skills and strengths. I help clients look at what they do well or what they do often to help them realize that the capabilities they use are a part of who they are and have, no doubt, helped them succeed. I also explore with a client the times they may have overused their strengths. This can be illuminating when they realize that there may indeed have been a cost to leaning on one or two attributes most of the time.

It is powerful when my clients devote time to appreciate how areas that are well-developed have supported them and when they recognize that the use of what we call “developing” attributes or capabilities are also a very real part of who they are.

Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” A curious paradox indeed. It begs exploration.

By knowing when well-developed areas are effective and when they aren’t helps build awareness in a client – and from there each individual can do something powerful: Make a choice and do something different – effectively to “expand their range” of possible approaches and actions.

Each client is different. Each client is unique. Each approach with them varies.

And yet each needs that safe place to talk and explore their personal and professional growth.

I have been a certified ICF executive coach for nearly ten years, after a three-decade career in corporate leadership positions. Working with high performers at all levels in management has shown me that everyone enters the world each day doing the best they can. Helping them build awareness about what they can add to those capabilities – to expand their own range– that is where the power in coaching lies.

What is the formula for success? Perhaps it’s about the tools of curiosity, listening, inquiry, and the power in pause that help each unique human discover where they are strong, where they want to grow, and then exploring how to do that.

It’s less about being formulaic and more about a roadmap, exploration, and what we find along the way.

Indeed, perhaps that is the formula for success.

Why Businesses Need to Talk About Disability and Accessibility

Disability and Accessibility

An estimated 54 million Americans have at least one disability, making disabled individuals the largest minority group in the country (Disability Funders Network, n.d.). So when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), why is disability so often left out of the conversation?

In 2020, only 27.5% of the largest U.S. companies had public-facing action related to including people with disabilities (Donovan, 2020). DEI initiatives and topics often leave out disabled individuals (Casey, 2021). It can be difficult to discuss a topic that has so many complexities and nuances, even down to its definition. There is no one universal definition of disability, complicating whether or not an individual will view themselves as disabled (Grue, 2016). Even if someone does identify as disabled or as having a disability, there are further nuances within the disability community.

For instance, some disabled people prefer identity-first language (Andrews, 2019), while others prefer person-first language (Crocker & Smith 2019), and general advice is to ask the individual one is referring to for their preference (Dunn & Andrews 2015). Disabilities can be acquired at any point in one’s life, meaning some individuals are born with a disability and others acquire a disability (World Health Organization, 2021). Some disabilities are visible and some are concealable (Grue, 2016). It can be hard to speak about the needs and struggles of such a diverse group of people.

However, talking about disability is vital in today’s workplace. COVID is estimated to have resulted in 1.2 million more disabled people in the United States in 2021 due to complications of the virus and conditions like long COVID (Roberts et al., 2022). The number of people with disabilities is rising in general, due to factors including increases in chronic health conditions and overall population aging (World Health Organization, 2021). Finally, researchers are increasingly viewing disability as a social-political group and examining social and cultural models of disability instead of simply medical models (Grue, 2016).

It can be intimidating to initiate conversations in your organization about complex identities. However, these conversations will eventually happen – it is simply a matter of when. Businesses should be proactive in starting these talks. There are plenty of disability organizations and activists that provide resources, workshops, and training on inclusivity. Documents like the Research & Training Center on Independent Living’s Guidelines: How to Write About People with Disabilities can serve as a reference in how to talk and write about people with disabilities (The University of Kansas, 2020). It is also recommended to include people with disabilities in designing and implementing any program or event that discusses disability. While some disabled individuals may offer input and volunteer to assist, people with disabilities should not be expected to design an event without any form of compensation. Further, while it is important to be open about the importance of accessibility, businesses should avoid “disability simulations” that are intended to empathize with the difficulties that disabled people experience (Pulrang, 2021). Simulations such as blindfolding a person to describe the challenges of blind people or requiring individuals to use wheelchairs for a day can treat disability as a costume.

The advice for these conversations is often simple: be teachable. Non-disabled individuals who are newly learning about disability-related topics are likely to make mistakes or use the wrong wording. Allow disabled individuals to challenge and correct information, assumptions, or language. Welcome constructive criticism without becoming defensive. Amplify disabled voices and perspectives.

In an age where so many companies avoid the topic of disability together, stand out by telling your employees and consumers with disabilities that they’re welcome in your organization.

~ Nikita Williams is an I/O Psychology graduate student and gothamCulture intern


Andrews, E. E., Forber-Pratt, A. J., Mona, L. R., Lund, E. M., Pilarski, C. R., & Balter, R.(2019). # SaytheWord: A disability culture commentary on the erasure of “disability”.Rehabilitation Psychology, 64(2), 111.

Casey, C. (2021, September 13). Do your D&I efforts include people with disabilities? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2020/03/do-your-di-efforts-include-people-with-disabilities

Crocker, A. F., & Smith, S. N. (2019). Person-first language: are we practicing what we preach?. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 12, 125.

Disability Funders Network. (n.d.). Disability stats and facts. Disability Funders Network. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://www.disabilityfunders.org/disability-stats-and-facts

Donovan, R. (2020). 2020 Annual Report: The Global Economics of Disability. Return on Disability. Retrieved April 15, 2022.

Dunn, D. S., & Andrews, E. E. (2015). Person-first and identity-first language: Developing psychologists’ cultural competence using disability language. American Psychologist,70(3), 255.

Grue, J. (2016). The social meaning of disability: A reflection on categorization, stigma, and identity. Sociology of Health & Illness, 38(6), 957-964.

Pulrang, A. (2021, August 27). 3 mistakes to avoid when including disability in your DEI programs. Forbes. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2021/08/27/3-mistakes-to-avoid-when-including-disability-in-your-dei-programs/?sh=118807c629aa

Roberts, L., Ives-Rublee, M., & Khattar, R. (2022, February 9). Covid-19 likely resulted in 1.2 million more disabled people by the end of 2021-workplaces and policy will need to adapt. Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://www.americanprogress.org/article/covid-19-likely-resulted-in-1-2-million-more-disabled-people-by-the-end-of-2021-workplaces-and-policy-will-need-to-adapt/

The University of Kansas. (2020). Guidelines. Research & Training Center on Independent Living. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://rtcil.org/guidelines

World Health Organization. (2021, November 24). Disability and health. World Health Organization. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/disability-and-health

gothamCulture’s James O’Flaherty addresses Imposter Syndrome on Veterans Administration C20 Webcast

James O'Flaherty, gothamCulture

gothamCulture Senior Associate James O’Flaherty was a guest on the Veteran’s Administration (VA) C20 Webcast “The Anxiety of Perfection: Confronting Imposter Syndrome.” James is a former US Marine Captain and holds a master’s degree in Behavioral and Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania. He brought his personal military experience and educational background to the conversation which included:

  • What imposter syndrome is and how it affects us all
  • Common themes regarding imposter syndrome among Veterans transitioning from active duty
  • The types of Veterans who tend to experience imposter syndrome
  • How imposter syndrome impacts behaviors and outcomes for Veterans coming off active duty
  • How Veterans can combat the effects of imposter syndrome when moving into the civilian workforce

James wrote an article on the topic “Imposter at Arms” in 2020.

C20 is a twice-a-week, 20-minute, live VA webcast hosted by Dr. Chad Kessler, National Program Director for VHA Emergency Medicine, and VA subject matter experts from the field who join him to address today’s hottest topics.

View the episode replay here. (His interview starts at 10:05 minutes into the episode)

Learning to Lead With a Canoe on My Back

What determines great leadership? When does someone become a great leader? I’ve pondered these questions often as an I/O Psychologist and an aspiring leader. Here is my journey.

I started to see myself as a leader during an Outward Bound excursion. Outward Bound is a nonprofit that provides “hands-on” education in the most literal way – through outdoor adventures that are designed to test your resiliency. This group adventure was the Pathfinder Boundary Waters Canoeing & Backpacking expedition in Minnesota; basically, you pay $8,000 to suffer for 300+ miles in under 30 days. This “adventure” is brutal to the unprepared and forces the individual to build a strong will. To give it a better visual, you are balancing a huge canoe on your back or a huge backpacking bag, both weighing between 50-125 lbs.

During my time in the Boundary Waters, I was a source of positivity and motivation for the group. Luckily, I was already in decent shape because of a consistent exercise routine. Some of my group members were not so fortunate and were having a difficult time carrying their share. Doing well on my own developed me into one of the leaders of the group. I was someone people could lean on when the rough got…well, rougher, and as much as I could, I provided support physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We were a team and I wanted everyone to have an enjoyable experience.

We were not completely on our own; this Outward Bound course provided us with two leaders who were trained specialists and have completed this course multiple times. The goal of the expedition was to develop everyone’s resiliency and to develop leadership skills by rotation. Most of the time on the expedition, I found that sharing experiences and telling stories was a great module to get people motivated.

Pursuing these large goals is certainly more attainable with a team built around a belief, value, or concept. High motivation, success, and perseverance are common qualities of a leader. Good leaders are examples for the team. As I can quote from one of my class readings, “A compelling purpose energizes team members, orients them toward their collective objective, and fully engages their talents” (Hackman, 2012, p. 437) To be a leader, one must understand a multitude of solutions; to reach a goal, leaders provide paths for followers to trek. Great leaders teach people how to be good leaders. Read More…

The Power of Caring For Your Team

Caring for your team

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to visit any business-related website without seeing headlines about the great resignation the great reshuffling the great reevaluation or some other term that’s being used to describe the rapid changes in employment happening around the country. Authors, consultants, and business leaders are all offering opinions and solutions for improving recruiting and retention that can help organizations react to the increased competition for talent. And there is an abundance of really good advice on improving employee experience to drive retention. Increased flexibility in work locations and hours, more autonomy and better professional development offerings are frequently recommended as necessary approaches for organizations navigating the current turbulence.  While all of these actions will certainly help, recent research by McKinsey suggests that there may be another, more important factor at play in retention decisions of your employees.

According to the McKinsey survey, the number one reason people are leaving jobs when they don’t have another job to go to: uncaring leaders. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. As the pandemic has ratcheted up stress levels and challenged even the most resilient employees to balance perceived threats to their physical and emotional wellbeing with personal, family, and job expectations, we should expect that individual’s need to feel seen and supported by their supervisors and leaders throughout their organization would also increase. And as such, a key responsibility of any leader must be to demonstrate that they genuinely care about their teams. If you want to amplify the care you have for your team, here are a few strategies: Read More…

Ways to “Find Your Voice”

Finding your voice

In my work with leaders, a very common theme is the desire to enhance communication. This feeling often emerges from their own awareness and desire to improve the ability to have meaningful conversations with others

In essence, it involves finding their voice.

Finding that voice is not as easy as just speaking up. Nor is it staying quiet, or deciding that a conversation can wait. And most certainly it is not the act of simply connecting the brain to the tongue and letting it go to work.

Speaking is, actually, the last thing you do in the steps to find your voice.

So how do we find those steps? In coaching, we use inquiry to help the client discover the actions that might work for them. It’s a process of awareness-building and is dependent upon each person’s experience, capabilities and perspective – effectively, the client’s “reality” in relationship to others. Read More…