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Developmental Disability Awareness Month: Embracing “A World of Opportunities” 2024

Feature image artwork “What?” by Lee Waters

March is recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a pivotal time for raising awareness about the challenges and achievements of individuals with developmental disabilities. Lead by the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), this month is dedicated to promoting understanding, acceptance, and inclusion within the broader community. It is a period marked by advocacy and outreach, aiming to bridge gaps in knowledge and foster a more inclusive society where individuals with developmental disabilities can participate fully and equally.

History and Formation

Developmental Disability Awareness Month has its origins in 1987, when then-US President Ronald Reagan officially recognized the event. The proclamation aimed to increase public awareness about the potential and needs of Americans with disabilities. This initiative encouraged support and resources to help individuals achieve their fullest potential and lead productive lives. The Centers for Disease Control` (CDC) categorizes developmental disabilities as impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions start in the developmental phase, can affect daily activities, and typically last for an individual’s entire life.

2024 Theme: “A World of Opportunities”

For 2024, the theme “A World of Opportunities” highlights the campaign’s focus on celebrating diversity, removing barriers, and creating inclusive communities where everyone has the chance to thrive. The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) leads the observance, emphasizing the inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life and acknowledging the ongoing work to overcome existing barriers. The artwork for this year’s theme, “What?” was created by Lee Waters from Anchorage, Alaska.

How to Advocate and Participate

  1. Educate Yourself and Others: Use this month to learn more about developmental disabilities and share your knowledge with others. Spreading awareness can challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive society.
  2. Show Support: Participate in events or use social media to show your support. Utilizing the official color orange, symbolic of energy and positivity, can be a powerful way to demonstrate solidarity.
  3. Advocate for Change: Engage with policymakers and support initiatives aimed at improving the lives of those with developmental disabilities. Advocacy can involve pushing for accessible public services, inclusive education, and employment opportunities.
  4. Volunteer or Donate: Consider supporting organizations that work tirelessly to support individuals with developmental disabilities. Your time or financial support can make a significant difference in their operations.
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Resources and Podcasts

For those looking to dive deeper into advocacy or seek resources, the NACDD offers a plethora of information, in several languages, and opportunities for involvement. They, along with other organizations like The Arc and the National Disability Rights Network, provide platforms for education, advocacy, and support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. In addition, check out the empowering voices and transformative perspectives from the podcasts listed below that are dedicated to the disability community.

BoggsCast – A podcast from The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities where faculty and staff explore best practice, showcase success stories, and help listeners envision possibilities for innovation through interviews with state and national experts.

Develop Abilities – Join advocates from Utah to learn about issues impacting the disability community, and about how self-advocates are working to Develop Abilities.

Disability Visibility – a podcast hosted by Alice Wong features conversations on politics, culture, and media with disabled people. (Note: The podcast ended with its 100th episode on April, 2021 but all episodes are accessible.)

Down to the Struts – Qudsiya Naqui is a lawyer and activist living in Washington DC. She identifies as a blind, South Asian woman, and is dedicated to making spaces and systems more inclusive of disabled people through public education, storytelling, and amplifying the voices of disabled people.

Included: The Disability Equity Podcast – A podcast from the Johns Hopkins University Disability Health Research Center that challenges stereotypes of disability by sharing stories, data, and news.

OurView: Disability Awareness – At OurView, we aim to raise awareness, educate, and change the tone of conversations about disabilities, and those who live with disabilities.

The Accessible Stall – podcast by Emily Ladau and Kyle Khachadurian. This podcast keeps it real about issues within the disability community.

In celebrating Developmental Disability Awareness Month 2024 under the theme “A World of Opportunities,” we are reminded of the collective responsibility to foster an inclusive world. By embracing diversity, advocating for equal rights, and supporting one another, we can create a community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed​.

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