March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

First recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. According to the National Disability Institute website, it’s to “increase public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities and to provide the encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”

The CDC defines developmental disabilities as “impairments in physical, learning, language or behavior areas.” Developmental disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, ADHD, learning or intellectual disabilities, hearing loss, vision impairment, spina bifida, down syndrome, and other developmental delays.

Before the nineteenth century, people treated individuals with developmental disabilities horribly. Often, they were treated violently and lived in poor and unhygienic environments. Many were “passed around” from their homes to other towns. Individuals with disabilities often were institutionalized, separating them from the rest of their community. 

Slowly, awareness about developmental disabilities spread. After the deinstitutionalization movement in the 1970s and 80s, Reagan declared March National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, making it illegal to discriminate against those with disabilities.

Each March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) creates a social media campaign that “highlights the many ways in which people with developmental disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities.” The campaign “seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.”

This year’s theme is “A World of Opportunities.” NACDD website said, “We’re celebrating people and working together to remove obstacles. Our goal is to build a community that’s committed to creating a world where everyone can do well and succeed.” 

To follow the campaign, check out NACDD’s social media and their hashtags, #DDAwareness2024, #DDAM2024, #NewOpportunities, and #AWorldofOpportunities.

Kiersten Fuhr Contributing Writer

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