In 1987, President Ronald Reagan designated March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Since that time, people with developmental disabilities have strived to bring awareness and acceptance to the public while celebrating diversity. Most people know someone with a disability, but do they understand that the needs, wants and personal experiences are very similar to their own?
The Allen County Board of DD promotes self-advocacy and hosts a group of self-advocates that wanted to share their thoughts for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month:
“Talk to me as the adult that I am. I may have challenges, but with some help, I have been able to overcome them to be a productive person. I have a job, I pay taxes. I enjoy drawing cartoon animals and volunteering, and I like to be involved in my community. I advocate for myself and for others. Give people with disabilities a chance to work and be included in all areas of life.”
“My disability is just one piece of who I am. I like to work, hang out with friends, paint nails. I’m talented and play the piano and I like being a part of my community.”
“I want people to be more aware of disabilities and know we have more similarities than differences. Educate yourself – get to know me.”
“I was diagnosed with Autism at an early age and growing up it was difficult to make friends. I wished I wasn’t different. But as I got older I realized I wasn’t different, I’m the same as everyone else; I have feelings.”
“I am a good person. I have help with some things, like money, but I take care of myself. I have a job, I clean, cook and take care of my home. I set goals for my life. I like to socialize and go places with friends. I want to be treated with respect like other adults. And please don’t talk down to me like I’m a kid.”
People with disabilities want full acceptance, respect, opportunities, friends, equal rights and the chance to have a good life in their community.
So, this March, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to make your community welcoming for people of every ability.
Every day is a chance to…Be kind. Be a good neighbor. And celebrate all abilities.
Please contact ACBDD if you are looking to hire great employees, want to volunteer or get involved, or need more information on how your organization can be more inclusive.
Mandy Lehman, Helen Zimmerman, Serena Coulter, Tamara Webster and Machal Hoops are members of Allen County Board of DD’s Project STIR