Diversity leads to true acceptance of disabled

To the editor:

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March as “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” By making this proclamation, the clear expectation was placed upon our society to embrace diversity by encouraging the opportunities necessary for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to maximize their independence and fully participate in their communities.

Since President Reagan’s proclamation much has changed for individuals with intellectual disabilities. More people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are living and thriving in their communities rather than in segregated institutions. There are more opportunities in education and employment and more protections in health care, the legal system and other areas of human rights. There are more positive and accurate portrayals of people with disabilities in the arts, and the list goes on and on. While we have much to celebrate, we cannot forget that these advances have not been easy and have only occurred because people with disabilities and their loved ones have fought for these changes, and we as a society have finally listened to the voices of those with disabilities and those advocating for people with disabilities. Our challenge ahead is to value people with developmental disabilities as part of our communities, listen to the voices of those with disabilities and take action to make the many changes still needed so that people with developmental disabilities can live a life just like any other member of society.

My goal in writing this letter is simple, I am asking that you recognize the importance of this month and take the opportunity to learn more about people with not only intellectual disabilities, but any type of disability. By learning more about others, we as a society become more diverse and with this diversity comes true acceptance.

Coleen Sassaman