Back in 1987, the month of March was designated “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” by then President Ronald Reagan. The push towards deinstitutionalization in the 70s and 80s provided the bedrock for incredible and needed social advancement. Reagan’s proclamation asked Americans to offer individuals with developmental disabilities “both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.
A Changing Landscape
As the narrative continued to shift, and those individuals impacted began to live and transition into an increasing part of the general community, programs aimed at career coaching, planning and placement started to emerge as well. The notion that individuals with developmental disabilities could transition into productive and valuable members of the workforce was new to many Americans and as such, work to deconstruct long-established preconceptions and stereotypes had to be approached head on.
Just a few years later, in 1990, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, significant ground was made towards mitigating discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace.
With Reagan’s proclamation and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the realistic expectations of individuals with disabilities began to change and autonomy, perseverance and community involvement increasingly became an achievable goal. Simultaneously, along with better health care, individuals with developmental disabilities started living longer and cultivated a wide spectrum of support needed to live fulfilling lives.
In 2004, the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) further clarified the perseverance, importance and abilities of individuals with disabilities. While promising early interventions, special education and services to help high schoolers transition into adulthood, IDEA continued to open doors.
While there has been significant and positive change three decades after the establishment of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, many challenges remain and we at Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled remain committed to continue working and advocating for our community. Our 40 different programs provide a full range of services to meet the personal, social, vocational training for developmentally disabled in WNY needs and to meet the goals of the people we serve.
We celebrate achievements and diversity during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and hope you take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate with us. We emphasize our commitment to working with developmentally disabled and community efforts to ensure the availability of support services to advocate for individuals with disabilities to live, work and participate fully in society.