In 1987, President Reagan proclaimed March to be “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” This is a time where we can raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities (often referred to as DD) in all areas of life. It’s also a good time to bring awareness about the barriers that people with disabilities may still face in connecting with their own communities.
We have come a long way since 1987. For instance, in 2009, a group of Ohio self-advocates lobbied to have the words “mental retardation” or “MR” dropped from our state and county agencies that serve children and adults with disabilities. Although MR was still a diagnosis, the term often has negative connotations and it was important to advocates and professionals alike to take this step. Since 2009, you have likely known our agency as the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Another area where we have seen progress is community living arrangements. People that are served by the Shelby County Board of DD live in community settings all around the county, just like everyone else. They may live with their families, with a roommate or on their own. Regardless of where someone lives, they still receive the care and services they need that are funded by the Shelby County Board of DD.
The world of employment is another progress area that we have seen since 1987. In 2012, Employment First became a state policy to make sure that every person of working age has the opportunity to find competitive employment. In Shelby County, individuals receive services to ensure that they can obtain and maintain their employment successfully.
Although, we have made progress over the years, we can certainly improve. It is important to recognize the person, not just the disability, and see not just the challenges, but the strengths and unique abilities that every person has. Our community is better when we include everyone in it. Follow our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shelbydd.org/ for updates throughout the month on how we, our provider partners, and the community is celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 2020.
The writer is the superintendent of the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.