What can you do to make your community more inclusive for people with developmental disabilities?

Vodec CEO Steve Hodapp

by Vodec CEO Steve Hodapp

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. To help foster awareness, let’s start with a definition. Developmental disabilities are 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*.

In plain speak, a developmental disability could be a mental or physical condition that creates challenges for a normal inclusive life. It could be obvious – someone in a wheelchair. It could be less obvious when the disability is cognitive.

One side effect is the attitude of a non-disabled person toward a person with a developmental disability. Generally, this attitude is one toward the person with a developmental disability as being ‘less than’, unimportant or worse.

Sad to say, but in the old days (and not really all that long ago), a person with a developmental disability may have been hidden by the family or pushed off to an asylum. The person would have been treated horribly by members of his or her community

During March, there’ll be any number of ‘feel good’ activities and announcements throughout this country to create more awareness of the progress that has been made for the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in their communities. There’ll also be awareness created about the progress yet required for disabled people to be fully included.

To be very clear, a LOT of progress has been made to enable a person with a developmental disability to enjoy the benefits of inclusion. There are more opportunities for employment and housing and socialization in the community than ever before.

Yet as recently as 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate for a person with a developmental disability was 7.3 percent – about twice the rate for a person without a disability.

It’s great a whole month is devoted to creating awareness. But how about the other 11 months? The stories of people with disabilities – their successes and challenges – need to be shared. People need to pay attention. People need help to learn how they can make inclusion become more than a goal. What can you do?

  • Hire a person with a developmental disability.
  • Rent safe and comfortable housing to him or her.
  • Include him or her in the social activities you enjoy.
  • Give him or her a ride to the grocery store.

In short, help him or her be part of the life you enjoy. Simply include him or her as you would anyone else, and do it year-round.

*Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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