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Month of March named Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Staff Reports • Updated Mar 9, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Gov. Bill Haslam recently signed a proclamation designating March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  

Haslam and the Tennessee disability community wish to recognize the valuable contributions made by individuals with developmental disabilities who live, work, play, vote, volunteer and build relationships in our local communities.

“I’m proud of our state’s commitment to increasing opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to pursue their goals, contribute to their communities and live quality lives,” Haslam said. “From inclusive higher education programs on college campuses, to the Employment First focus of state and community agencies, to the new ABLE TN savings program led by the Tennessee Department of Treasury, there are countless examples of state agencies, community organizations and families working together to make sure Tennesseans with developmental disabilities have the chance to thrive.”

The proclamation states, “Tennessee is committed to recognizing that every person, regardless of perceived ability, has valuable strengths, infinite capacity to learn and make decisions, and the capability to make important contributions to their communities if given opportunities to do so.”

Many individuals with developmental disabilities and their family members still face enormous barriers in accessing needed services and supports they need to be active and included members of their communities alongside their neighbors without disabilities.

 “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month provides an opportunity to reflect on recent public policy successes that are raising the bar for how Tennessee supports and empowers individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Wanda Willis, executive director of the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.  “Tennessee’s new Employment and Community First program, administered by the Bureau of TennCare, has begun serving hundreds of newly-eligible individuals with developmental disabilities by helping them achieve their employment and community living goals through long-term services and supports. We also applaud the continued efforts of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to transform and improve how disability services can support individuals with developmental disabilities to work and be fully included in their communities. Tennessee has much to celebrate this March.”

The council hopes Tennesseans use Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month as a time to learn how they can get involved working alongside individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to transform their communities into accessible, welcoming and supportive places for people of all abilities. Tennessee’s communities are stronger and better for everyone when all citizens are not only accepted but also respected for the contributions they make and their strengths, abilities and gifts.

The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities estimates that more than 103,000 Tennesseans have developmental disabilities, based on national data on prevalence rates. A developmental disability, according to the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, is defined as a severe, chronic disability, which originated at birth or during childhood, is expected to continue indefinitely, and substantially restricts the individual’s functioning in several major life activities. Examples include, but are not limited to, autism, traumatic brain injury, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and Down syndrome.

The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities is an independent office in State government. The council works under a governor-appointed board of private citizens who are individuals with disabilities and family members of people with disabilities. Carrying out requirements of the Developmental Disabilities Act, the council creates positive change in state policy and practices that influence programs and services for Tennesseans with developmental disabilities and their families.

For more information about developmental disabilities, the needs of citizens with developmental disabilities and their families in Tennessee, or the work of the Council, contact Willis at 615-253-5369 or wanda.willis@tn.gov or visit tn.gov/cdd.

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