Developmental Disability Awareness Month Celebrates Integration and Inclusion< < Back to
ATHENS, Ohio – The Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities observed March as Developmental Disability Awareness Month to celebrate and empower those with developmental disabilities.
Board Superintendent Kevin Davis said events like the march on Court Street, attended by more than 100 people, raised awareness in the community.
“[Athens] is very inclusive and integrated,” he said. “But you can never really take that for granted even if we live in a city that’s accepting of all types of people. It’s still good to continuously put that out there that we can all work on our inclusive and integration efforts.”
David Dewey, one of the marchers with a developmental disability, said he marched because he wanted to show that people using wheelchairs aren’t confined to wheelchairs.
“We can also do something,” he said. “We can march and walk and drive around in a wheelchair. You can do a lot of things in a wheelchair.”
Autumn Brown, director of Integrate Athens, said Athens’ businesses have become more ADA accessible over the years because of events organized during the month-long celebration.
“A lot of people are becoming aware as businesses are adapting,” Brown said. “The architecture and the engineering are helping them figure those things out, but we have a long way to go.”
Brown said that the events organized by the board have had a positive impact. He sites one example with Athens Public Transit where staff can secure wheelchairs on buses, assist those using canes and walkers, and generally help riders feel comfortable.
That impact has led to an increase in clients, so the board modified the training for its personnel to keep up with the needs of those using their services. Previously, that training extended only as far as helping someone with their day. Now the board helps people plan their vacations, dreams and interests that suit them.
“There is a couple that are together and trying to get them to go out on a date,” said Leslie Perry, Community Inclusion Specialist. “It’s the simple little things that we don’t think about ourselves cause we do them automatically, but sometimes [people with developmental disabilities] need help in achieving those things.”
The board also wants to help those with developmental disabilities travel on their own – figuring out transportation, locations and packing. These skills are crucial for them since others have planned their trips in the past.
“Now it’s time for them to really explore it and learn themselves,” Perry said.
The board also plans to open a co-op shop on Columbus Road within the next few months to sell products made by people with developmental disabilities.