Every March, the United States celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM). This special month is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the individuals living with developmental disabilities and their families. It’s also a time to reflect on the progress we’ve made in providing opportunities and advocating for rights for this community. Let’s take a look at what DDAM is all about and why it’s important.
What Are Developmental Disabilities?
Developmental disabilities affect mental or physical functions, such as cognitive or motor skills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines developmental disabilities as “a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.” Common developmental disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, Down syndrome, hearing loss, vision impairment, and learning disabilities.
What Is DDAM?
The month of March was established as Developmental Disability Awareness Month by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. It is intended as an annual event to increase public awareness of issues related to individuals with developmental disabilities and promote inclusion and access for all. During DDAM each year, organizations around the country host events to raise awareness for and promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
These events include:
- Rallies and marches for disability rights
- Awareness campaigns
- Community gatherings or conferences on disability topics
- Fundraisers for local nonprofits dedicated to assisting individuals with developmental disabilities
- Educational workshops for parents of children with special needs
- & more
Many of these events focus on increasing public understanding of developmental disabilities while advocating for greater inclusion. Not every event needs to be a grand gesture, though. Even if each of us as individuals does our part to create an inclusive society, we can work together to make a difference.
The Importance of DDAM
Developmental Disability Awareness Month provides an opportunity for those living with a disability (and society at large) to gain a greater understanding about the importance of including everyone in our communities, regardless of their abilities. For example, it’s essential that we ensure that people with developmental disabilities have access to meaningful employment opportunities. They should also be given every chance to live independently and have access to resources that allow them to do so.
As a society, we must work together to reduce the stigma associated with disability and create supportive environments where everyone is valued equally. NorthEast Independent Living Services (NEILS) is based on the concept that a person with a disability can lead a constructive life as a functioning member of his or her community.
Through our services, like Independent Living Skills Training, Home Care Services, Youth Services, and Disability Awareness Programs, we are able to educate and bring awareness to those living with disabilities and their families. Our goal is to help the community accept and respect persons with disabilities just as they want to be accepted and respected.
Developmental Disability Awareness Month is an important reminder that we are all responsible for creating inclusive communities. Communities where everyone is treated fairly, regardless of their abilities or circumstances. We must continue to bring attention to the issues facing people who live with developmental disabilities, so that we can create more equitable opportunities for them both now and in the future. By coming together in support during DDAM and throughout the year, we can help make sure that all members of our society have a chance at success: no matter what challenges they face.