A Personal Story; What Developmental Disability Awareness Month Means to Our Family

By Raymond Hampson, Board Member, The Arc of California

As a father of a 32-year-old son with a developmental disability, I am reflecting on this past month of March and wonder what has Developmental Disability Awareness Month meant for my son and our family.

I am thinking back to a time when parents were advocating for their children to live home and in the community and not be placed in an institution; a time when parents wanted their children educated next to their typically developing peers. I applaud the parents that helped form the Lanterman Act in California that allows our children and adults with disabilities to have the proper services and supports to live in the community. I am very thankful for these parents who advocated for equality and inclusion.

I know it is my responsibility not to lose these important services and it is my responsibility to help expand and shape these service as we move into the future. I also know I cannot do this by myself. I must listen, learn and follow the lead of my son and his peers on what they want and need to live a fuller life in the community.

Having a month designated as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month helps acknowledge that my son and his peers matter; that they belong in the community and have something to contribute to the community. It lets the larger community know that having a developmental disability is a part of the human existence and makes the world more diverse and beautiful. That they will no longer be placed in an institution because others are uncomfortable around or know how to react to a person with a Developmental Disability.

We need to celebrate our pioneers who led the disability rights movement like Ed Roberts and Judy Heumann, parents like Shirley Dove & Julie Beckett, leaders like Sue Swenson & Colleen Wieck and all the parents who advocated for the Lanterman Act.

I thank everyone who has impacted my son’s life and made it possible for him to live with his supports in the community. Together, we will all continue to make improvements in the lives of people living with disabilities.

A Personal Story: How I Became Ms. Wheelchair California

By Kathleen Barajas, President, Project AIR

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM) was established in 1987. Each year, it gives the disability community an opportunity to share their personal stories, and to educate others about individuals with disabilities. It is especially important because at any time in a person’s life, they can become a member of our disability community. Disability touches everyone’s life in one way or another and should not be seen as negative or hopeless.

In honor of DDAM, I am sharing my story. I want to thank The Arc of California for allowing me the space to share and inspire others to do the same.

Hi! I am Kathleen Barajas, and I am a Disability Rights Advocate in Los Angeles. I am an individual with severe cerebral palsy, which not only affects my mobility and coordination, but my speech as well. I very often say that it is not my disability that is difficult, but the way that some people view and interact with me based on how my disability makes me appear.

In 2016, I competed for and won the title of Ms. Wheelchair California. Although I knew that I would be at a slight disadvantage because of my speech, I felt that I had a good advocacy background that would provide the boost I might need. For the interview session, I was able to have my cousin with me as my revoicer, however the judges understood me fairly well and only asked a few times to have something I said revoiced. Much of the same occurred when I participated in the Ms. Wheelchair America 2017 Competition in Michigan, and I was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2020, I founded Project AIR, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “To educate communities in the appropriate treatment and accommodation of individuals with speech impairments and more severe disabilities.” Our board consists of prominent leaders in the disability community who are adamant about educating about individuals with disabilities. We have created pamphlets/booklets on various disability-related topics, and we have given presentations to organizations in our community on those topics. It is crucial that all individuals be treated with respect and dignity, and it is through education that this will be achieved. Please visit our website at https:// project-air.net/ to learn more.

We encourage others in the disability community to share their story with us at info@thearcca.org.


A Personal Story: Why Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is Important to Me

By Joseph Meadows, former Board Member for Arc of California and Arc of United States

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month gives me, and other people with disabilities, the chance to share our stories. I have lived in Sacramento, CA and lived independently in a group home for 15 years. I have previously served for many years on the Board of Directors for The Arc of California and The Arc of United States. In November 2022, one of my roommates Jon passed away. Over the years he became much more than just a roommate. He was my best friend, and I miss him dearly.

Jon taught me something important that I want to share with everyone: “People should be seen for their gifts and talents and not their disabilities.”

People with disabilities have a voice and the same desires for what they want in life as anyone else.

My friend had a gift for gardening that he shared with me, and in return, I showed him how to ride the city bus so he could go out into the community. One of our favorite things to do together was attending the Sacramento River Cats baseball games. In the picture above, I am on the left side and Jon is in the middle. We both loved sports and going out to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I continue to be active in the community and grateful I had the opportunity to share my life with a good friend. Jon continues to inspire me to be an advocate and help raise awareness for the disability community and being fully accepted for who we are — a human being.

Join this month’s campaign and share your story! What do you want people to know about living with a disability?

If you are a friend or family member of a person with a disability, share something about them that you love or makes you proud. Email us with your photo and story at info@thearcca.org

Together, we want to build a future of acceptance, equality and inclusion. It starts by understanding each other better. This is our month to help people understand developmental disabilities! Join Us!

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

This week, in recognition of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we are showcasing Joe Meadours who is one of California’s strongest advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Joe is a long time Board Member of The Arc of California, and past Executive Director of People First California. Over the past couple of years Joe’s personal experience and journey through managing his own health needs has led him to develop a passion for health education and advocacy. Joe learned the hard way that had a chronic health condition when he was diagnosed with diabetes after passing out at a baseball game. After many days in the hospital and feeling angry and confused, Joe knew that he had some hard decisions to make and a lot to learn if he was going to be able to maintain his independence.

Over the last 2 years, Joe has worked so hard to learn everything he can about diabetes and how to manage it. When he first began his journey he had to inject himself with insulin 4 times a day – before every meal and before bed – and he said it made him feel like a human pin cushion. Today, he is proud to report that after a lot of hard work his diabetes is under control, he had significantly reduced the amount of insulin and the number of times he has to take it.

His hard work has included working with his support person learning how to shop better and cook healthy meals instead of going out to get food that may not have been so healthy. He also started walking every day and is not up to walking three times a day (several miles in total). Joe had the courage to ask his team – roommate, family, friends, service provider, health care provider – for help and to support him in his effort to get his health in check. Joe is a natural leader, educator, and advocate and because of his personal journey and experience he wants to work with his peers and provide health education to help others manage their own health. Joe is in the process of developing a health education training in hopes of supporting his peers who may be struggling with managing their own health. We look forward to seeing Joe’s presentation and will let everyone know when and where he may be presenting this important information.


March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Each March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and our partners work together to create a social media campaign that highlights the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities.The campaign seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.

This year the NACDD has selected Eileen Schofield as the feature artist, and creator of the DD Awareness Month Image. Eileen is a very talented artist who uses markers as her medium of choice to create beautiful, bold artwork that reflects her passion for bright colors. You can find more of Eileen’s one-of-a-kind art pieces at Art-Enables https://art-enables.org/artist/?id=44867.

To find out more about how you can participate in showcasing artists and celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month visit: https://www.nacdd.org/ddam1/


March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Each March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) partners with Association for University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) to create a social media campaign that highlights the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities. The campaign seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.

The NACDD has a great blog that I would encourage everyone to follow https://www.nacdd.org/dd-awareness-month-blog/. There is no better way to kick of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month than to share the Kick Off blog post by Emily Kranking:

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a time where our great nation reflects on the achievements of people who have developmental disabilities. Developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder affect one’s growth and/or cognition. As of 2017, about 1 in 6 children are identified to have some type of developmental disability. [1] But people shouldn’t have to be worried or alarmed if someone has a developmental disability. They can usually live normal lives as long as they have the proper supports.

However, disabilities in general are given stigmas by society. Many people still assume because one is disabled, it means that they need help with everything. Or they aren’t bright enough for school or get a job. Or they can’t find love, get married and have kids on their own. This is why months such as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month are important for the public. They spotlight the disability community and show how people with developmental disabilities live normal lives. In return, the public can learn how they can help people with developmental disabilities achieve their dreams.

So why isn’t the country celebrating and recognizing Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month more broadly? Is the country so used to people with developmental disabilities as symbols of humility and pitifulness that they are not ready to embrace powerful people with developmental disabilities like Greta Thunberg, for instance? Is the notion of someone who has Down Syndrome or an intellectual disability seem so precious that we naturally have the feeling to protect and take care of them?

As someone with cerebral palsy, I have been there. Getting baby talked, literally at one point getting watched and praised over walking away from my wheelchair, as if I was a baby taking her first steps, by two random women and even prayed over by a religious man. Just because I have a young aroma around me with my baby voice, baby face and a feminine fashion sense, it doesn’t mean I’m incapable of being independent, having emotions and acting my age.

This month, I am premiering in my first motion picture Best Summer Ever at the South by Southwest Festival and the ReelAbilities Film Festival. It is the first movie musical starring people with disabilities. I am one of the leads, along with my friend Jacob who has Asperger’s syndrome. We feature numbers of actors, singers and dancers with many developmental disabilities. We are off to a giant start! This could be the second biggest movie about disabilities in recent history after last year’s The Peanut Butter Falcon, which starred my friend and BSE co-star Zachary Gottsagen.

Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome, has recently gained universal acclaim after being the first actor with Down syndrome to present at the Oscar’s. He has also gained a few accolades for his incredible performance. Zachary is starting to shake expectations of disabled actors by proving that we are able to work in movies and plays. Could he be shaking low expectations of people with developmental disabilities in general? If Zachary can do something big in life, if my cast and crew members can do something big in life, so can all people with developmental disabilities! That’s what Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is all about.

SXSW 2020 Film Festival