Commissioners sign Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month proclamation

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GREENVILLE –  On Thursday, the Darke County Board of Commissioners held a proclamation signing at Darke DD. This proclamation recognizes March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. 

“Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a time to spread awareness about inclusion,” Tonya Clark, Darke DD Superintendent, said. “People with developmental disabilities are accomplishing amazing things. Our goal is to continue to break any and all barriers while spreading the important message that all people are valued. Awareness of the barriers people with disabilities sometimes face in participating in the community and how we can each support their broader inclusion is key to a more diverse and equitable community. Darke DD will soon be announcing several exciting community projects that will help to break some barriers to community accessibility and inclusion for all.” 

Commissioner Matt Aultman read the ‘Whereas’ statements of the proclamation. After each statement, a member of Darke DD came up and put the statement in more straightforward terms to explain it to the audience. 

Here is the proclamation with the explanations from members of Darke DD: 

“Whereas, March is recognized nationwide as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, The Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the Darke County community seek to commemorate progress toward improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities while also highlighting the challenges that remain in achieving a community that fully includes people with developmental disabilities;” 

Sam Ploch explained, “Darke DD serves over 480 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We need the right services and supports to live and, work, and play as independently as we can. We want to be allowed to choose what is important for our lives; it is called self-determination. With your help, we can all create an accessible and inclusive community for all.” 

“Whereas, it is the responsibility of each Darke County citizen to recognize and acknowledge the barriers and challenges that can keep people with developmental disabilities from realizing their full potential at school, work, home, and in their communities;” 

Jimmy Meade explained, “What this means is that we have barriers that you might not recognize as your own. We must have a community that is fully accessible for everyone, or else it isn’t truly inclusive. Difficulties in getting to or into a place can limit us from participating in everyday life and common daily activities. Not having accessible restrooms can also limit our ability to attend events and enjoy activities. We also need accessible and affordable transportation options for those of us that do not drive.” 

“Whereas, each of us as members of the Darke County community can contribute to improving the lives of people with developmental disability by being strong advocates and supporters of increased independence and community leadership;” 

Janine Houseman explained, “You can support us by breaking down another barrier called Attitudinal. What this means is, please do not stereotype us; we don’t want to be pitied, feared, or ignored. Don’t assume our quality of life is poor or that we are unhealthy because of our disability; when you support us, believe in us, and include us, we can live more meaningful and full lives.” 

“Whereas, it is important that we expand opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, including access to integrated employment, education, housing, health care, and civic engagement in the context of community participation;”

Chas Floyd explained, “What this means is we want real jobs with real pay so that we can be contributing members of our society. We want to live in our own homes. We want to be seen for our gifts and talents and be active in our communities. We want to be social and have friends. We want to add value to our neighborhoods and communities.” 

“Whereas, we can help people live their best lives in our community by empowering people with developmental disabilities to explore possibilities for their lives by maximizing independence, community, participation, employment, and economic self-sufficiency in their daily life experiences;” 

Micah Barga explained, “What this means is that you can help us by giving us opportunities. People with disabilities are far less likely to be employed than people without disabilities, and yet we make outstanding employees! Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities. You can be a teammate, be a friend. Welcome someone who has been left out. Include someone in your activity or club. Say hello to someone. There are so many ways to spread inclusion. Choose yours.”

“Whereas, family members, caregivers, and service providers selflessly offer daily care, assistance, supervision, and physical and emotional support to people with developmental disabilities to help ensure their full participation in community life;” 

Kevin explained, “We may not have as big of a support system or group of friends as most people. Many times, our social life revolves around doing things with our paid providers. You can include us; you can reach out to support us so that we can be fully included in our community and local events. Help us break down barriers. It’s as easy as just saying ‘hi.’ Together, we can create a better, more diverse, and more inclusive place to live, work and play.” 

“Now, therefore, we, the Darke County Commissioners, do hereby proclaim March 2024 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and offer full support to efforts that assist people with disabilities to make choices that empower them to live successful lives and realize their potential and furthermore, we urge all citizen to join in the celebration by spreading awareness of the many contributions offered by people with developmental disabilities in our community.” 

All three commissioners signed the proclamation. 

Visit www.darkedd.org to learn more about the services and supports provided by the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities.