Challenges remain to raising awareness on developmental disabilities

Although President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in 1987, after the deinstitutionalization movement of the seventies and early eighties had laid the groundwork for social change necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential, it was not until recently when the proclamation was finally recognized by some states.

The states of New Jersey and Alabama officially recognized it in March.

In his proclamation, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recognized the COVID-19 pandemic had created enormous new challenges for people with developmental disabilities, and for the community of family members, caregivers and advocates.

The New Jersey proclamation indicates that approximately 133,000 children and adults in the state have an intellectual or developmental disability, and gives credit to the resilience of these residents and careers through the pandemic.

In New Jersey, advocates at Community Access Unlimited, a Union County-based statewide nonprofit working to integrate people with disabilities and youth at risk into the general community through comprehensive supports, have been reminding the community that people with disabilities continue to fight for accessibility and inclusion in national society.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a proclamation on March 1 designating the month to “promote greater understanding of the issues affecting people with developmental disabilities” and “educate our communities, policymakers, friends and family members, health care providers and businesses that the movement towards full inclusion in community life for persons with developmental disabilities is a positive and worthy goal.”

Darryle Powell, executive director of the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities, said we are glad for the proclamation and want to raise awareness of the estimated 110,640 Alabamians born with developmental disabilities, as well as raise expectations.

Kimberly Boswell, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, said it’s important for the state as a whole to recognize the achievements of those with developmental disabilities who prove how much they contribute to the work and the communities we share.

Powell added it is also an opportunity to let more people know about the many resources we have available to assist people in learning, living independently and pursuing fulfilling jobs and social lives, and the more we can educate, the more we can achieve together.