March is nationally recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. During this time, we celebrate and raise awareness of the many contributions those with developmental disabilities make in communities throughout Iowa. 

More than 350,000 Iowans have a disability, and more than 48,000 of those individuals have a developmental disability (a mental or physical disability acquired before the age of 22).

Mark Schneider, board member of the Developmental Disabilities Council and superintendent at the Mid-Prairie Community School District, is particularly focused on creating inclusive communities within public schools. 

“It is normal for humans to have biases and fears,” Schneider said. “What should not be normal, however, is for individuals to act on these biases and fears to create unjust or unfair barriers preventing other individuals from learning, working, playing or living a normal life. 

“Far too often, and for far too many individuals, we use our biases and fears against persons with disabilities to unfairly and inaccurately believe they are incapable of normal learning. Given the right accommodations and support, all humans, with disabilities or not, can learn. And not only are they capable of typical learning; they can do it in our normal classrooms and learning environments.”

The goal for this month is to create awareness about developmental disabilities, teach the importance of inclusion within every aspect of life and to share the stories of individuals with a disability to demonstrate that a successful life is possible. 

Iowans with Disabilities in Action encourages all individuals with disabilities to find a way they can actively participate in their community to not only increase awareness but show the importance of inclusion.

Brooke Lovelace, Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council executive director, said, “It is important to recognize the person and not the disability. By placing the person first, the disability is no longer the primary, defining characteristic of an individual but one of several aspects of the whole person. Once we start to recognize the unique talents everyone offers, we can truly start to create inclusive communities.”

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