Concert series to raise spirits and awareness during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
Milwaukee – Many people
with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) live with a host of
challenges – everything from a shortage of suitable housing options and unemployment
to poor health and a lack of connection to their community. Over the past year,
the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even worse, which makes finding solutions
now more important than ever.
urgency will be the driving force behind National Developmental Disabilities
Awareness Month for Bethesda, a national nonprofit organization that supports
people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Throughout March, the
organization will be advancing issues as well as innovations that can change
the month, Bethesda will also aim to bring people together virtually through
high-profile concert events during the month, featuring Grammy-nominated and
Dove-winning Contemporary Christian artist Crowder; Cindy Cash and Mark Alan, family
members of country legend Johnny Cash; and American Idol finalist Jessica
“COVID-19 really demonstrated that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are among the most vulnerable among us,” said Mike Thirtle, president and CEO of Bethesda. “At the same time, they and their families have shown incredible resilience and a renewed desire for lives filled with independence and potential. It is this promise for the future that motivates us to work every day on their behalf, and to make the world more inclusive and welcoming for people of all abilities.”
began in 1987
Disabilities Awareness Month was proclaimed by President Ronald
Reagan in 1987. The proclamation called upon all Americans to provide support
and opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to reach
their potential. Back then, the idea that individuals with developmental
disabilities could be productive contributors in the workforce was relatively
new and preconceptions had to be overcome. With the enactment of the Americans
with Disabilities Act in 1990, workplace discrimination against individuals
with developmental disabilities became a legally punishable offense.
While people with disabilities have
made strides over the years, there is much room for improvement. For example,
of Internal Medicine reported that people with Down
Syndrome, a developmental disability, are four times more likely to be
hospitalized for COVID-19 and 10 times as likely to die from the illness.
Incredibly, in some locations people with I/DD are pushed to the back of the
line for COVID-19 treatment, which disrespects their basic dignity as human
beings. Bethesda has strongly advocated for the elimination of all inequities
in health care and access to holistic care that includes behavioral services
provided by trained professionals.
Opportunities in housing,
Even though many large institutions
housing people with I/DD have fallen out of favor, nearly 700,000 people live
in congregate settings such as group homes, intermediate care facilities and
institutions, according to a disability study reported in the Harvard Political Review. Because people
live in close quarters, they are especially at risk of infection during
COVID-19 and similar emergencies, despite the diligent best efforts of their direct
support professional staff.
Bethesda advocates for, and
provides, more independent housing options for people with I/DD, recognizing
their desire to become more included in their community. That is why Bethesda
created Cornerstone Village, a first-of-its-kind residential community in the
Twin Cities that welcomes people of all abilities, including those with I/DD.
Given that many people with I/DD live near the poverty level, with average
earnings of an individual on Supplemental Security Income at $9,156 per year, affordability is crucial – and a key component of the
Cornerstone Village model. The universal design of Cornerstone Village units
includes accessibility features and technologies that keep residents safe and
help them control their daily lives to the greatest extent possible.
“Our hope is that residents of Cornerstone Village feel a strong connection to the community around them, and empowered to pursue employment, social, faith and other important opportunities,” said Thirtle. “We are looking across the country for our next Cornerstone Village locations, and we are confident this model of residential community will be a game-changer that improves lives.”
aims to raise spirits as well as awareness during March. Even though people
can’t gather in person right now, it is still possible to celebrate all that
people with disabilities have accomplished. Bethesda will be extending its Better
Together virtual concert series with three new events, with full details at
- On March 1, Bethesda will feature Jessica Meuse, longtime friend of Bethesda who will be visiting Cornerstone Village in Victoria, Minn. There she will be meeting and performing for residents that include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as active adults ages 55 and up. Meuse will perform the song she wrote specifically for the people Bethesda supports, “Because You Love Me.”
- On March 18, Cindy Cash and Mark Alan will welcome viewers to Johnny Cash’s farm outside of Nashville, Tenn., where they’ll tell stories of Johnny, sing his most popular songs, and share why they care about people with disabilities.
- Finally, on March 25, the Better Together concert series welcomes Crowder, who will perform live from Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, N.C. The concert will showcase people Bethesda supports and look back on an exciting month of activities. Plus, viewers will have an opportunity to donate to the work Bethesda is doing for people with disabilities.
can do more to include all abilities. Learn more about Developmental
Disabilities Awareness Month and Bethesda’s campaign, at IncludeAllAbilities.com. Resources
on the dedicated website include:
- An overview to the issues,
latest facts and figures, and solutions needed
- A guide for employers
interested in hiring a person with a developmental disability
- A guide to communication – what
to say about and to people with disabilities
- Access to lawmakers for
- Inspiring stories of people
- And much more – check back
will also employ the hashtag #IncludeAllAbilities
on social media and encourages everyone to use it to personally support the
campaign and spread the word about the need to include.
Headquartered in Watertown, Wis., Bethesda is a national organization providing homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and is celebrating its 117th anniversary in 2021. Bethesda strives to become a central point of connection that unites people who have disabilities with communities and provides essential resources to help them live their lives to the fullest. The organization offers more than 300 programs across the country, provided 4 million hours of support across all programs in a recent fiscal year, and is guided by Christian faith. For more information, go to http://www.bethesdalc.org, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.