March Is Developmental Disabilities Awareness

There are a variety of issues that can impact a family and community. It is important to understand the spectrum of multiple abilities when looking at the multiple areas that can impact a person, family, and community. Level of ability is something most of us take for granted if we are privileged enough to be an able-bodied person. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a disability is defined as “any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for a person with the condition to do certain activities and interact with the world” (CDC, 2023). This broad definition can encompass areas of impairment, activity limitation, and participatory restrictions, which may come in various forms. These challenges can take forms both seen and unseen. This is why many people can often silently struggle with the challenges of daily life. These are challenges that able-bodied people can truly overlook through no fault of their own.

Approximately 27% of the US population is estimated to have some form of disability (CDC). That means that about one in every four people you encounter, every day may be experiencing a barrier posed by a disability. This may seem strange until you realize that disabilities can come in forms unseen by casual observation. Physical health, mental abilities, cognitive abilities, and independent living skills can be a constant struggle never known. While we go about our busy lives, we often forget about those individuals and their families. Caregivers, loved ones, extended family, friends, co-workers, and the community at large are impacted by people who may need support to fulfill their life goals while living with a disability. Stress due to the challenges of living with a disability can also lead to increased incidents of obesity, smoking, heart disease, and diabetes for both the individual and the greater support network.

This month, we challenge our community to move beyond observation and engage in building a knowledge base to better understand those in our community who may be thriving with a disability. We can challenge ourselves to become aware of how a person with a disability has learned to adapt, overcome, and instill hope in themselves and others. We can learn about the various forms we can all be impacted by the reality of physical and mental disabilities. Perhaps this will turn our knowledge into action and eventually into acceptance.

Noeli Zamora, Clinical Director, the Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna

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