(Milwaukee) – During March, Bethesda celebrates National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to spread awareness about the real progress that has been made by people with disabilities, as well as reflect on what more needs to be done to build a truly inclusive community.
Today, more than four million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability. While many of these individuals rely on a variety of services and supports, they also benefit from simply being included by others in the community, just like we all do. Bethesda helps people of all abilities create lasting, meaningful connections with one another, because when we create these connections, everyone benefits.
In addition to creating connections, National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is an opportunity to increase understanding of important needs and gaps related to developmental disabilities, including:
Community Involvement and Employment – Having a job is a key milestone for many with disabilities. Unfortunately, the 2019 Case for Inclusion reports that competitive employment participation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities decreased from 24 percent to 19 percent in the past year.
Faith Supports – Being connected with a faith community, which Bethesda encourages, is something of value to 84 percent of people with disabilities, according to the Collaborative on Faith & Disabilities. However, the organization further notes that only about 10 percent of congregations have a disability ministry in place.
Homes – Direct support professionals, or DSPs, provide support in home environments. According to the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), the national turnover rate for DSPs is 45 percent, which dramatically impacts quality of life for people supported.
“During this month, we recognize positive contributions people with developmental disabilities make in our communities every day,” said Mike Thirtle, Ph.D., president and CEO of Bethesda. “It is an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges facing individuals with disabilities and their families. It is also a chance to promote respect, foster understanding and encourage inclusivity.”
To help raise awareness of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, there are numerous ways you, your family and friends, coworkers and congregation can help.
- Visit Bethesdalc.org to learn facts and view a video about the campaign. You can also see and share photos that show the real faces of disability and people making connections.
- Help us spread the word on social media. Posting positive messages about how your loved one with a disability is succeeding can help eliminate negative stigmas. Be sure when posting and tweeting to include our hashtag #ConnectAllAbilities.
- Help provide employment opportunities. Talk with your employer about their practices for recruiting and hiring people with developmental disabilities. Many employers are simply unaware of how much an employee with a disability can contribute to the workplace.
- Become more informed on the issues and advocate with people of influence. Write a letter to your community leaders such as local legislators, clergy and business owners.\
- Donate to help Bethesda continue to provide support for individuals with a disability.
“We encourage you to recognize this important month, take time to learn more about people with developmental disabilities and their concerns, and reach out to others,” said Thirtle. “Together, we can #ConnectAllAbilities and make a difference in our communities.”
Headquartered in Watertown, Wis., Bethesda is a national Christian organization, providing homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1904. 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 through more than 300 programs across the country. For more information, go to https://www.bethesdalc.org/, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest.
About Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
Developmental 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. During this time, 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.