In 1987, Ronald Reagan declared March as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in an effort to move all Americans toward encouraging those with disabilities and providing them opportunities to reach their full potential. Through acceptance, celebration, and inclusion of people with disabilities, our communities become richer by encompassing all of its members. This month is an important time to call attention to the barriers experienced by those with disabilities to develop new solutions.
Events and celebrations in every state have been scheduled throughout the month of March. This is a great opportunity to increase your knowledge and grow your advocacy for those with developmental disabilities.
The Importance of Raising Awareness
Setting aside a month each year to consider the challenges faced by those with developmental disabilities provides a chance to pause and look for ways to better our communities. According to the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), “Over 5 million Americans are estimated to have a developmental disability.” As a vibrant piece of the fabric of our communities, events during March drive understanding and support for people with developmental disabilities. Below are a few reasons why boosting awareness is so critical.
Continue the Forward Momentum
Although today individuals with developmental disabilities are an active part of our communities, it has not always been this way. In fact, it’s only been about 40 to 50 years since doctors and educators began to question the institutionalized care provided to those with developmental disabilities. Taking pause to learn and understand Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (IDD) continues this forward movement to build more inclusive communities.
Recognize Needs in Your Area
While it’s great to gain a better understanding of individuals with developmental disabilities, the next step is to become more aware of these community members in our schools, churches, stores, and more. In raising awareness, it’s much easier to build positive relationships and recognize barriers that may present unnecessary challenges for those with developmental disabilities.
Volunteer Your Time
Building strong communities relies on volunteers willing to donate their time and talents. This is a terrific opportunity to show support, learn more about IDD, and lend a helping hand where it is needed. REACH, located in California, is just one organization that encourages volunteers to make a difference in the lives of those with developmental disabilities.
Celebrate National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
Vertex Systems and its customers are strong advocates for people with developmental disabilities. Here are just a few participating in activities to raise awareness.
Opportunities for Growth is a Vertex customer based in Fishers, Indiana. In 2016, the city of Fishers established the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability to champion inclusion, collaboration, and acceptance for all people who live in their community. A leadership team member from Opportunities for Growth is a member of the advisory committee. If you’re in the area of Fishers, Indiana, check out their website to see the events they have planned for March 2022.
Dakotabilities is another Vertex customer based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Jennifer Smith-Hoesing, the Director of Development at Dakotabilities joined Keoland, a local television program, to discuss the steps each of us can take to be more inclusive of individuals with developmental disabilities. Raising awareness by informing and educating your community is a great way to celebrate this important month.
Raise Awareness – Your Turn
If you haven’t already, now is a great time for you or a team of friends to focus on individuals in your city that have developmental disabilities. Maybe one of these ideas will spark your creative juices to consider how you can support, include, and advocate for people in your community:
- Ask a company to sponsor your local running group and set up a 5k or mileage race to raise money for a local IDD organization.
- Be more informed by attending a local class about autism, dyslexia, dementia, etc. Better yet, invite a friend to go with you and post about your learning on social media.
- Give your time to an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities. Your community will thank you and you might just make a few, pretty awesome friends along the way.
Enjoy this special month of March and the opportunity to interact, include, and encourage people with developmental disabilities!