March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 800 × 2500 px

1987 was a notable year for the developmentally disabled community as it was the first year the National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was observed. Former President Ronald Reagan issued a public proclamation designating March to be the official month to raise awareness of the I/DD community’s needs and diverse abilities. This was the result of years of advocacy by family and friends within the I/DD community to bring more awareness about developmental disabilities. 

“I urge all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.” -President Ronald Reagan 

Many advocates, families, individuals with I/DD, and nonprofits use March to communicate the importance of inclusion and accessibility of people with developmental disabilities. While inclusion and accessibility are key points of discussion in March, another topic highlighted are the barriers this vulnerable population often faces. 

While all adults face challenges, adults with I/DD face even more frequent challenges on both the environmental and societal level. The barriers listed below are representative of the lack of accessibility and inclusion within the community. 

Barriers commonly reported: 

Attitudinal barriers

  • Stereotyping, stigma, discrimination 


  • Written messages for those who are visually impaired 
  • Auditory messages for those who are hearing impaired 
  • Complex language or long sentences for those with cognitive impairments


  • Obstacles in community settings that create a blockage by being in the way of access points
    • E.g. curbs, stairs, or doors that do not automatically open


  • Denying reasonable accommodations for the workplace or housing 
  • Activities or federally funded programs not inclusive for individuals with disabilities 


  • Less likely to be employed 
  • Less likely to have completed high school 
  • More at risk of experiencing family violence 


  • Public transportation may be located at far or inconvenient locations 

How can you help?

  • Incorporate universal and intentional design in all aspects of community settings to create as much accessibility as possible.
  • Give those with speech impairments time to communicate.
  • Try to use simple sentences when communicating with someone who has a cognitive impairment.
  • Free floor spaces of any obstructions.
  • Don’t pet or distract someone’s  guide dog without their permission. They have a very important job to do! 
  • Introduce yourself to those who are visually impaired and give them notice when you are leaving.
  • Highlight someone’s abilities rather than their limitations.
  • Refrain from using language that implies negative stereotypes about the I/DD community.
  • Raise awareness and help spread the word about LSA’s mission and consider making a donation
  • Join LSA’s team to further our mission and expand housing capacity for the I/DD community.

To learn more visit the resources below:

Common Barriers to Participation Experienced by People with Disabilities

Crescent News – Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

People First: A Guide to Interacting with People with Disabilities – DHS 4151

5 Common Barriers For People With A Disability

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