In 1987, President Ronald Reagan made a public proclamation that the month of March should be recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities.” A lot has changed since then: more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are living and thriving in their communities rather than institutions, there are more opportunities in education and employment, more protections in health care, the legal system and other areas of human rights, there are more positive and accurate portrayals of people with IDD in the arts, the list goes on.
Fairfax County has once again officially recognized the commemoration. The Board of Supervisors issued their offical proclamation. You can view the video of Board Chair Jeff McKay reading the proclamation, and self-advocate Cassie Albert accepting the proclamation on behalf of The Arc of Northern Virginia, The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, and the thousands of people living in Fairfax County with disabilities and their families.
But we must remember that many of the advancements in disabilities rights and services over the decades past were hard won. Self-advocacy and advocacy on behalf of those with IDD was the impetus for many of the positive changes in our society. And while there has been significant and positive change in the decades, many challenges remain.
While we still aim to increase public awareness of developmental disabilities, our focus has shifted to highlighting the importance of community inclusion and disability acceptance. We now seek to teach the importance of inclusion within every aspect of life, and to share the stories of individuals with a disability to show that a successful life is possible!
So during the month of March, we’re encouraging you to go public. Share your story. If you have a photo, video or story of inclusion, share it on your social media platforms. Whether it’s inclusion in the workplace, in the school or in the community, share it with your followers to spread awareness. Whenever you post your message of inclusion on your social media platform, make sure you use the hashtag #DDawareness2023 or #DDAM2023. And for an even greater impact, reach out beyond your current, everyday followers. Consider following, messaging or tagging your local legislators, businesses, schools, news stations and more. You can engage your whole community in the conversion.
THAT’s how we ensure DD Awareness Month has purpose, meaning, and impact.