National Disability Awareness Month

This article was written by Madeline Mancini, Sports Managment Intern for SportsAbility Alliance.

What is National Disability Awareness Month?

National Developmental Disability Awareness Month was founded on February 26, 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. He officially declared Proclamation 5613, making March National Disabilities Awareness Month. The proclamation called for individuals to provide understanding, encouragement and opportunities to help people with disabilities to lead productive and fulfilling lives. In March, we specifically take extra steps to raise awareness about the support and rights of people with disabilities. Since Reagan’s declaration, attitudes toward individuals with disabilities have shifted and programs have increasingly supported the independence of people with disabilities.

National Disability Awareness Month celebrates those with impairments in learning behavior such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, impairments physically and/or intellectual functioning such as cerebral palsy and down syndrome.

March is when we celebrate people with disabilities and their contribution to our communities and society! National Disability Awareness Month celebrates those with impairments in learning behavior such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, impairments physically and/or intellectual functioning such as cerebral palsy and down syndrome. The purpose of making March National Disability Awareness Month is to raise awareness about including people with developmental disabilities and awareness about the difficulties that people with disabilities face such as fitting into their community.

How can you participate in National Disability Awareness Month?

In March, all individuals, agencies and organizations support people with disabilities and are encouraged to observe March with appropriate observances and activities to increase public awareness for Americans with disabilities. The proclamation to make March National Disability Awareness Month was intended to make people feel wanted, deserved, enjoy life, feel productive, welcome and secure.

Another goal of March is to foster peer relationships and educate the community. You can show your support for National Disability Awareness Month by sharing on social media, reposting support, leaving nice comments and spreading awareness! Another way you can show support is by wearing the color orange. Orange is the official color of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, the color symbolizes energy and positivity! Lastly, put a smile on someone's face, make them feel happy! You can also volunteer and learn something new about yourself and another person who may have different lifestyles and different abilities.

Life before National Disability Awareness Month

Before the 19th century, people with developmental disabilities were treated violently and lived in poor unhygienic environments. In 1850, Jean-Etienne Dominique Esquirol was a famous psychiatrist in France and set up a compassionate asylum for people termed ‘insane’, which became known as Equirol’s House of Health. In 1848, social reformer Dorthea Dix did not let her position as a woman get in the way of advocating for the end to the abysmal conditions of housing for persons with disabilities. In the mid 1850s more awareness about developmental disabilities spread through Europe and in the United States custodial institutes. In 1876 an association was set up. Six medical professionals came together and set up the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (A.A.I.D.D.). Then in 1987, President Ronald Reagan designated March as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

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