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March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is here, which means it’s time to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

DD Awareness Month logo

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM) is a nationwide event to raise awareness about inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life, and the barriers that people with disabilities still face.

 

If your organization serves people with IDD, you’ll definitely want to join in. We’ve gathered some ideas to help you participate, but first let’s look at how Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month got started.

History of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

The first National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was observed in 1987, following decades of advocacy and efforts to raise awareness about developmental disabilities.

 

The event was officially created by Congress when it passed Public Law 99 – 483, which designated the month of March as “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” and authorized the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this event.

 

When President Ronald Reagan signed the Presidential proclamation declaring March “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month”, he wrote:

 

“I urge all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”

 

This was an important step in bringing attention to the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities. In the 34 years since that proclamation, there have been a number of other significant events for the IDD community:

 

  • 1987: March designated “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month”
  • 1990: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in public life
  • 2004: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act reauthorized, ensuring that all children with disabilities have access to a “free appropriate public education”
  • 2008: ADA amended, making it easier for an individual seeking protection to establish that they have a disability
  • 2014: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act signed into law, helping individuals with disabilities gain access to employment, training, and support services
 

These are just a few important milestones for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. While Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a time to celebrate the progress that has been made, it’s also a time to acknowledge and address the work that still needs to be done. If you’re looking for ways to participate in DD Awareness Month in your community, here are some ideas.

Creative ways to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

1. Wear orange

Orange is a color symbolizing energy and positivity. It’s also the official color of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. One of the easiest ways to recognize DD Awareness Month is to invite your team to wear orange. So grab your orange attire, and let’s celebrate! 

2. Hold an art contest

DD Awareness Month is a great time to feature artwork created by people with developmental disabilities. How you host the contest is up to you, but you can celebrate the creative talent of individuals with disabilities by showcasing the artwork in your offices, on your website, and on social media. 

 

The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is also highlighting art created by people with disabilities in their campaign imagery. You can submit art (with the artist’s permission, of course) to Rafael Rolon-Muniz at rrolon-muniz@nacdd.org.

3. Share images, videos, and stories on social media

Social media is a great way to connect with your community and raise awareness about developmental disabilities. By posting to your social media channels, you can help amplify the voices of people with disabilities. 

Here are a few ideas for social media posts to get you started: 

  • Highlight the stories of individuals with developmental disabilities 
  • Share artwork created by people with IDD
  • Use DDAM’s logo as your cover image or share it on your accounts. This year’s artwork was created by Eileen Schofield. 
  • Share stories and videos from the DDAM Resource Guide 2021
  • Create a graphic with facts and stats about I/DD
  • Promote resources in your community, such as employment services and day programs

Here’s a great example from a previous DD Awareness Month campaign to inspire you: 

 

 

Image credit: Choose Work – SSA via DDAM Resource Guide 2021

“Having grown up with #CerebralPalsy, Shileta wanted to help young adults with disabilities find the support they need to pursue independent living. Find out how #TicketToWork helped her reach her goal. #DDAwareness19”

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #DDAwareness2021 to help other people discover your posts! 

You can also use DD Awareness Month to connect with agencies around the country. By liking, sharing, and commenting on other people’s posts, you can help raise awareness about developmental disabilities.

4. Start a (virtual) book club

If you’re looking for a way to keep the conversation going year-round, you might consider starting a book club that highlights protagonists and authors with disabilities. Starting a book club is a relatively easy thing to do, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with your community even if you can’t host an in-person event. 

 

Not sure where to begin? Try one of these titles:  

 

  • The Pretty One by Keah Brown
  • Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan R. Nussbaum
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
  • More Alike Than Different: My Life and Lessons for Everyone by David Egan
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

 

After reading, this is a perfect opportunity to have a discussion about inclusion and the challenges facing people with disabilities. 

5. Record a video or podcast

During DD Awareness Month — and all year round — it’s important to give people with disabilities a platform. One way to do this is by recording a video or podcast. You might invite people with developmental disabilities to tell their stories about their experiences with education, employment, and community life. Or, you could interview employers to learn what it’s like to hire someone with an intellectual or developmental disability — just remember to include people with disabilities in the conversation.

6. Attend or promote an event

While events might look a little different this year with social distancing, there are still plenty of opportunities to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Many state and local agencies have opted to host virtual events this year, including webinars and Zoom panel discussions. You can find a list of these events in the NACDD’s resource guide, or check the websites of these organizations. 

 

Even if you’re not able to attend, you can still help out by promoting these events to your network. The more people who participate, the more opportunities to raise awareness and understanding of developmental disabilities — and that’s something we all want.

Your turn

There are lots of ways to get involved in Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month this month. Of course, raising awareness for DD doesn’t end in March. In fact, next month is Autism Awareness Month. 

Now, over to you: How are you celebrating this March? We would love to hear your ideas! And for more news and tips for IDD agencies, subscribe to SETWorks’ blog and receive updates in your inbox!

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