Thirty years ago, former President Ronald Reagan declared March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In observance, Opengate, Inc. unites with agencies and advocates across the country to bring awareness to the progress and the challenges which face individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
Today, agencies and nonprofits are able to offer better programs and possibilities to the individuals they serve. Education and employment opportunities have improved through the hard work of those who continually fight to protect individuals’ rights and support their needs.
While we reflect upon the improvements to quality of life, we also must take into consideration the issues of the day that touch every individual with developmental disabilities, such as inclusion, housing, and acceptance.
Agencies like Opengate, Inc. stand by our mission to insure respect and dignity for our individuals, and continually strive to increase public awareness of their potential with an emphasis on their personal abilities and positive outcomes.
Over the last 30 years the expectations of adults with developmental disabilities and their parents has shifted from isolation and warehousing to obtainable goals of self-directed care and community contribution.
“As increasing numbers of people with developmental disabilities live, work, play and contribute in their communities, it is more important than ever that this awareness not be limited to one month, but year-round.” (OPWDD website.)
There are ways that everyone can highlight awareness for individuals with developmental disabilities by initiating conversations in the home with family members and children. Learn about and teach acceptance and respect for the differences which allow us all to embrace a better understanding.
We also encourage businesses to employ people with disabilities and become aware of the valuable contributions they can make. Consumers should make time to commend those businesses and let them know you support their hiring decisions.
Become aware of the issues and commit to be involved within your community by contacting legislators about changes in policies. Be a voice for positive change for all of the disabled community, protect their rights as citizens, and support their aspirations. We are all one community.
NOTE: Opengate staff is available to speak to groups, churches, schools, and organizations about IDD issues and offer audience appropriate programs. We are committed to education and public awareness well beyond March and would be pleased for the opportunity to do so.