In the month of July, we celebrate Disability Pride Month, marking the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark legislation was passed in 1990 and has helped to break down barriers to inclusion in society.
But barriers still exist, which is why we need to honor every kind of disability, the people who identify with them, and the wide range of supports they need to thrive.
Below is a list of recommended books for all ages about persons with disabilities.
All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything (2020), by Annette Bay Pimentel. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, Jennifer Keelan grew up battling-and overcoming-the limitations others set for her. From a lack of cutaway curbs and bus lifts to being denied enrollment at her neighborhood school, Jennifer was continually blockedfrom living the life she wanted. But after discovering the world of disability rights activism, she knew she had to use her voice to change things. When Jennifer was just eight years old, she participated in the Capitol Crawl. The deeply affecting imageof Jennifer crawling up the steps of Capitol Hill went viral and helped pressure Congress into passing the Americans with Disabilities Act. A powerfully illustrated biography of Jennifer’s life and a celebration of youth activism, All the Way to the Top will teach all children that they have the power to make a difference.
Hello Goodbye Dog (2017), by Maria Gianferrari. For Zara’s dog, Moose, nothing is more important than being with his favorite girl. So when Zara has to go to school in her wheelchair, WHOOSH, Moose escapes and rushes to her side. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed at school and Moose has to go back home. But Moose can’t be held back for long. Through a series of escalating escapes, this loyal dog always finds her way back to Zara, and with a little bit of training and one great idea, the two friends find a way to be together all day long. Includes author’s note about therapy dogs.
Just Ask! : Be Different, Be Brave, Be You (2019), by Sonia Sotomayor. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez create a kind and caring book about the differences that make each of us unique. A #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the Schneider Family Book Award.
Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
Nice Wheels (2005), by Gwendolyn Hooks. The classmates of a new boy at school find that, although he is in a wheelchair, he can do what they do.
Not So Different : What You Really Want To Ask About Having A Disability (2017), by Shane Burcaw. Not So Different offers a humorous, relatable, and refreshingly honest glimpse into Shane Burcaw’s life. Shane tackles many of the mundane and quirky questions that he’s often asked about living with a disability, and shows readers that he’s just as approachable, friendly, and funny as anyone else.
Shane Burcaw was born with a rare disease called spinal muscular atrophy, which hinders his muscles’ growth. As a result, his body hasn’t grown bigger and stronger as he’s gotten older―it’s gotten smaller and weaker instead. This hasn’t stopped him from doing the things he enjoys (like eating pizza and playing sports and video games) with the people he loves, but it does mean that he routinely relies on his friends and family for help with everything from brushing his teeth to rolling over in bed.
What Happened to You? (2023), by James Catchpole and Karen George. This accessible, funny, and groundbreaking story addresses the questions children often ask, as well as a disabled child’s choice not to answer.
What happened to you? Was it a shark? A burglar? A lion? Did it fall off? A boy named Joe is trying to play pirates at the playground, but he keeps being asked what happened to his leg. Bombarded with questions and silly suggestions, Joe becomes more and more fed up…until the kids finally understand they don’t need to know what happened. And that they’re wasting valuable playtime!
Based on the author’s real childhood experiences, this honest, funny, and authentic picture book is an empowering read for anyone with a disability, and for young readers learning how best to address differences.
Where You See Yourself (2023), by Claire Forrest. Effie Galanos’ goals for her senior year include her navigating her way through her high school that is not really wheelchair-friendly, getting into the perfect college, and getting her crush Wilder to accompany her to the prom–but by spring she is beginning to see herself entirely differently.
The Reckless Kind (2021), by Carly Heath. It is 1904 and the partially deaf Asta Hedstrom is engaged to Nils, but she does not want to marry him: she would rather spend her time with her best friend Gunnar Fuglestad and his secret boyfriend, Erlend, who belongs to the wealthiest family on their Norwegian island; so when Nils gravely injures Gunnar, she shuns her marriage and moves in with Gunnar and Erlend in a secluded cabin above town–and the three misfits set out to win the annual Christmas sleigh race, and prove to that they belong together,in spite of the villages prejudices.
Cursed (2019), by Karol Ruth Silverstein. 2020 Schneider Family Book Award winner (teen book). A debut novel for fans of The Fault in Our Stars that thoughtfully and humorously depicts teen Ricky Bloom’s struggles with a recent chronic illness diagnosis.
As if her parents’ divorce and sister’s departure for college weren’t bad enough, fourteen-year-old Ricky Bloom has just been diagnosed with a life-changing chronic illness. Her days consist of cursing everyone out, skipping school–which has become a nightmare–daydreaming about her crush, Julio, and trying to keep her parents from realizing just how bad things are. But she can’t keep her ruse up forever.
Ricky’s afraid, angry, alone, and one suspension away from repeating ninth grade when she realizes: she can’t be held back. She’ll do whatever it takes to move forward–even if it means changing the person she’s become. Lured out of her funk by a quirky classmate, Oliver, who’s been there too, Ricky’s porcupine exterior begins to shed some spines. Maybe asking for help isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe accepting circumstances doesn’t mean giving up.
Impossible Music (2019), by Sean Williams. In an emotionally compelling tale crackling with originality, when a teen musician goes deaf, his quest to create an entirely new form of music brings him to a deeper understanding of his relationship to the hearing world, of himself, and of the girl he meets along the way.
Music is Simon’s life—which is why he is devastated when a stroke destroys his hearing. He resists attempts to help him adjust to his new state, refusing to be counseled, refusing to learn sign-language, refusing to have anything to do with Deaf culture. Refusing, that is, until he meets G, a tough-as-nails girl dealing with her own newly-experienced deafness.
The Color Of Family : A Novel (2023), by Jerry McGill. A tragedy upends a family’s delicate balance in an emotional novel about secrets, guilt, friendship, race, and reconciliation by Jerry McGill, author of Bed Stuy: A Love Story.
Devon and James Payne are brothers and rivals since childhood. But they share an affinity for sports that brings glory to their Connecticut town and promise for the future. Then they’re in a car accident. Devon is paralyzed for life, while James goes on to live the dream.
For the Paynes, the tremulous repercussions of that evening never settled. Over the course of a decade, Devon decides to visit his seven siblings now scattered across the globe. Each has moved on, yet each struggles to cope with the traumatic event that irrevocably connects them. Devon confronts not only his own demons and family secrets but also the guilt and heartbreaking betrayals that followed in the wake of the tragedy. He also discovers the power of forgiveness—and that coming to terms with the past is the only way to live free in the present.
Demystifying Disability : What To Know, What To Say, And How To Be An Ally (2021), by Emily Ladau. A guide for how to be a thoughtful, informed ally to disabled people, with actionable steps for what to say and do (and what not to do) and how you can help make the world a more accessible place.
People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, an estimated 15 percent of the global population. But many of us – disabled and nondisabled alike – don’t know how to act, what to say, or how to be an ally to the disability community. Demystifying Disability is a friendly handbook on the important disability issues you need to know about, including: how to appropriately think, talk, and ask about disability; recognizing and avoiding ableism (discrimination toward disabled people); practicing good disability etiquette; ensuring accessibility becomes your standard practice, from everyday communication to planning special events; appreciating disability history and identity; and, identifying and speaking up about disability stereotypes in media.
Authored by celebrated disability rights advocate, speaker, and writer, Emily Ladau, this practical, intersectional guide offers all readers a welcoming place to understand disability as part of the human experience.
Greek Lessons: A Novel (2023), by Han Kang. In a classroom in Seoul, a young woman watches her Greek language teacher at the blackboard. She tries to speak but has lost her voice. Her teacher finds himself drawn to the silent woman, for day by day he is losing his sight.
Soon the two discover a deeper pain binds them together. For her, in the space of just a few months, she has lost both her mother and the custody battle for her nine-year-old son. For him, it’s the pain of growing up between Korea and Germany, being torn between two cultures and languages, and the fear of losing his independence.
Greek Lessons tells the story of two ordinary people brought together at a moment of private anguish-the fading light of a man losing his vision meeting the silence of a woman who has lost her language. Yet these are the very things that draw them to each other. Slowly the two discover a profound sense of unity-their voices intersecting with startling beauty, as they move from darkness to light, from silence to breath and expression.