Ever since March was declared “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the intellectual and developmentally disabled community and its advocates have made it a point to get the word out about the importance of inclusiveness.
Many awesome organizations have emerged to combat prejudices and educate the population. They serve to remind us that not only do those with intellectual and developmental disabilities need our support, they’re just as capable—and, in some cases, exceptional!
Here’s a rundown of four organizations and the actions they’re taking to promote Developmental Disability Awareness Month:
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
The NACDD is an umbrella association for 56 councils on Developmental Disabilities across the US and its territories. Their mission is to fund and support programs “that promote self-determination, integration and inclusion for all people in the United States with developmental disabilities.”
Their site offers a link to a “Resource Guide” to help supporters and advocates share “Disabilities Awareness Month” graphics and links on social media. Of note, is the “Side by Side Story Submissions,” a chance to showcase stories about people with developmental disabilities and the important people in their lives.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics is an organization dedicated to fitness, athleticism and awareness. With a worldwide network of chapters that provide year-round training and competition for over 5 million athletes, their mission has been to positively demonstrate that those with special needs are just as capable of performing in Olympic-level sports.
The Special Olympics will be held this year in Austria, from March 14–25. Tune in as it will be broadcasted on ABC Networks!
With over 700 nationwide chapters, the Arc is the largest organization dedicated to the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities community, their families and supporters. They also helped to establish “Developmental Disabilities Month.” They do impressive work, establishing services and support networks, community education and vocational training.
For the month of March, each chapter will be doing their own actions and celebrations where all are encouraged to attend. There will be conferences on topics, such as workplace hiring practices and supporting businesses that employ special needs individuals. There will also be seminars and meetings for families and caregivers. The Arc’s website has a handy map with links to its national chapters.
With recent issues regarding the new healthcare funding, the Arc is asking for special needs individuals and their supporters to share their healthcare stories, as well as to send messages to elected officials about their concerns.
Best Buddies’ mission is particularly uplifting: the creation of “one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development” for developmentally disabled people. Through their outreach, Best Buddies seek to help members of the community feel accepted socially through mentoring programs, assisting people to secure employment and encourage leadership from special needs and non-special needs individuals to help spread a message of inclusiveness to the wider world.
The actions they’re initiating for this month have much to do with the “social” in social media: March is “#BestBuddiesMonth!,” where stories of developmentally disabled and friends without disabilities make the rounds in Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Instructions can be found here.
For those who have been paired up in the mentoring program, you can use this month to celebrate your #Buddyversary on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media you use. You can even post a pic wearing your Best Buddies gear.
Sign up for the BB Friendship walk to promote inclusion and a sense of community! The website links to a map that shows where and when a Best Buddies Friendship Walk will take place.
Additionally, the Best Buddies are promoting a “Spread the Word to End the Word” pledge, promoting the elimination of the casual use of the “r-word” in casual, daily use. By taking the pledge, you’re taking a big step in helping to educate the broader population to end hurtful language that continues to keep members of the disabled community isolated.
In the United States, developmentally disabled people represent a sixth of the population. Though this population comprises of those with down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and related conditions, it’s important to remember: they are your family-members, friends and co-workers. Those with special needs are your fellow citizens.
Just think: One month’s effort can make a lifetime of change!