Progressive Community Services Set to Celebrate March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

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Each day Progressive Community Services advocates for the rights and meaningful involvement of individuals with disabilities in the local community. The month of March is designated as Developmental Disabilities Awareness month so that the entire nation can recognize the children and adults who are striving to become a greater part of their community through employment, volunteering, education and social activities.

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Twenty-seven years ago President Ronald Reagan chose the month of March to call upon Americans to cast away stereotypes of individuals with developmental disabilities and offer them opportunities to reach their full potential. Individuals with developmental disabilities were not merely citizens who needed care, but they were Americans capable of caring for others through employment and social opportunities.

Three years later, the Americans with Disabilities Act protected individuals from being discriminated against in the workplace. Stigmas about individuals with developmental disabilities had to be torn away as they moved into mainstream America. Today, many individuals with developmental disabilities hold part-time and full-time jobs in various fields including retail, customer service, office administration, computer technology, outreach services and education. Stereotypes are diminishing but we must keep that vision of equality and potential alive.

Individuals with developmental disabilities have career aspirations just like anyone else. In 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guaranteed that individuals would have rights to the best educational opportunities through early intervention and then help in transitioning from high school into adulthood. Special education teachers help young children with developmental disabilities work toward goals, encouraging them along the way.

The community has the means by which to help individuals with disabilities reach their full potential. Some programs are funded by taxpayers or within decreasing government budgets. As employers keep hiring individuals and taxpayers agree to assist programs that would empower individuals to gain further skills and independence, stereotypes will keep diminishing and the community will be rewarded through able and eager workers.

Since their inception in 1978, Progressive Community Services has seen the changes, the opportunities and rights of individuals with developmental disabilities increase over the years—and they continue to be a leading advocate people with developmental disabilities in our community. Through community partnerships, training, public education, personal care, housing, and networking services they help individuals reach their full potential. They empower individuals to become more independent and find the skills that can enable them to become a meaningful part of their community.

To that end, communities around the nation have been exploring the means by which to continue to remove barriers that create the “us” versus “them” mentality. Some have banded together to create universal playgrounds which can be enjoyed by all. This mind-set helped spark the central theme of this year’s Developmental Disabilities Awareness month and supporting poster, “When Everyone’s In.” While a universal playground is not yet a reality in St. Joseph, the idea that we are all one community who work and play together is what we will celebrate in the month of March and hopefully for years to come.

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Lynn Smith

Rachel McCoy

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