In 1987, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” President Reagan’s proclamation built upon the deinstitutionalization movement of the seventies and eighties.
The proclamation inspired further social change by asking Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.”
Feeling optimistic these citizens moved from institutions and began living in communities. Which led to the need for more comprehensive solutions to provide career planning, workforce development, and other success-driven supports. Social change is not always swift, and preconceived ideas of how to provide opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities had to be overcome. Fortunately, advocates continued to push change by encouraging Congress to recognize that those with developmental, and other, disabilities deserved more. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 made discrimination against people with disabilities sanctionable.
As the framework of services and supports changes, those with disabilities and their families embraced living productive, self-directed lives.
The ability to provide safe and secure, quality, fulfilling lives led to the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004. IDEA provides guarantees of early intervention, special education, and services to transition High Schoolers into early adulthood.
Disabilities present in many ways. Some are visible such as a person who uses a wheelchair, and other disabilities are not easily recognized, like cognitive challenges that affect how a person speaks, learns, or interacts with others. Stereotypes are still too prevalent, hurtful words are said too often, and the Medicaid funding provided to aid our disabled community members are often under pressure.
More than three decades after President Reagan proclaimed March Developmental Disability Awareness Month we still have work to do. On ourselves and our understanding of disability, on protecting the taxpayer-funded programs and accomplishments of the past, and on encouraging more expansion in self-directed services to provide freedom of choice and control to remain safe, healthy, and independent in one’s home and community.
Each March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and their partners work together to create a social media campaign that highlights the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities.
A special element of the campaign that began last year was to highlight the artwork created by people with disabilities. Similar to last year, they have selected artwork featured at local DC studio Art Enables to serve as logo imagery for DD Awareness Month. Learn more about this years artist Eileen Schofield.