BY AUSTIN RUFF
Last Thursday, students attended a Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month activity at the Memorial Union. Students engaged in activities to learn about the diversity of the autism spectrum, ADHD and the history of those with developmental disabilities.
The month was initially recognized by President Ronald Regan in 1987, when he proclaimed March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” This progressive step urged Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their full potential. With this proclamation, people with all disabilities were suddenly given the opportunity to voice their concerns.
Just three years later, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, making workplace discrimination against those with disabilities sanctionable by law. This brought numerous new opportunities for those with disabilities and began to change the public perception of disabled people. At the turn of the century, renewed legislative resolve saw the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, which guaranteed early intervention, special education services, and high school transition resources to those with disabilities.
Although fears regarding budget cuts to taxpayer-funded programs, high unemployment, abuse, neglect, and unstable economic times are common for those with disabilities, advocates hope that the awareness garnered throughout the month will help to shed light on the needs of those with developmental disabilities.
Students were able to engage in interactive activities that showed the resilience and strength of those with developmental disabilities. Through events like these, misperceptions and stereotypes can be debunked and new perceptions put in their place. The awareness achieved by the month has, over the years, allowing for a change in societal perception, numerous legislative actions in Washington, and a previously unimaginable amount of opportunity for those with developmental disabilities.