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  • Chatequa Pinkston and Michelle Zeman

A Guide for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Advocacy



Members of MAGICAL Self Advocates of Orlando pose for a photo for its first annual Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day in 2023

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM), which provides a platform for self-advocates to educate their communities about the successes and needs of the developmental disability community.

 

History

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan set March as a month to increase public awareness of the potential and needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. This year, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) and other organizations, like FL SAND and Florida Self-Advocacy Central encourage people with and without disabilities to raise awareness about the importance of forming strong, inclusive communities. More information is available here

 

Ways to Advocate

Here are some tips on how self-advocates can educate others on the needs of people with disabilities:

 

  • Reach out to your elected officials about issues within the developmental disability community. For example, Supported Decision Making and other bills were recently passed in the Florida house and the senate after several years of advocacy. However, issues that self-advocates must continue to speak out about such as Medicaid buy-in, competitive wages for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) providers and ending the waitlist for (HCBS) are ongoing.

  • March is also a good time to reach out to your local government officials about accessibility needs in your community. Consider attending a city council or county commission meeting and speak during the public comment period. For example, the transportation needs of people with disabilities continues to be an ongoing issue. Consider talking to local transportation boards and committees on this topic.

  • Strike up conversations with friends and family and others in your community (healthcare providers, hair stylists, fellow employees, etc.) about the needs of people with disabilities. Share your story.

  • If you're part of a self-advocacy or other group, host and attend events that bring awareness about developmental disabilities. For example, MAGICAL Self Advocates of Orlando is hosting its second Orlando Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day on March 29 at Ironworks 808 in Orlando. For more information on the event, click here. The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council has a tool kit to help with organizing community events.

  • Pitch a story about disability awareness to your local television or radio stations and newspaper and/or prominent bloggers and online influencers. It can be about needs people with disabilities have in your community or highlight a self-advocate that is making an impact in the community and serves as a role model for others. Self-advocates who are successfully employed and enjoy their jobs make great local feature stories. Check the FSACentral blog for ideas and this really cool example.

  • Use social media posts to share your story and what you’d like people to know about living with a disability. Use the following hashtags: #DDawareness2024 #DDAM2024 #AWorldofOpportunities #NewOpportunities. Share your story about employment as someone with a disability, share how you have advocated locally, or point out accessibility problems in your community and ask for support. Don’t forget the hashtags.

 

We encourage you to use March as an opportunity to highlight the successes and issues within the intellectual and developmental disability community, but you can do these things year round. The important thing is to do something so let’s advocate and strive for a more inclusive and accessible world for all people with disabilities.

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