March is national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed this month of significance in 1987 to welcome an era of social change towards people with developmental disabilities and to shine a spotlight on our moral obligation to support those with developmental disabilities and disability issues.
The national conversation around developmental disabilities is just now starting to grasp the full spectrum of services needed for people with disabilities to live secure, fulfilling lives.
We understand that support is needed not only for individuals, but also for their families, caretakers and community at large. The idea that people with developmental disabilities not only want to, but are capable of, leading productive, self-directed lives within the community is becoming more obtainable every year.
And because of improvements in healthcare, people with developmental disabilities are living longer, making the case for providing services that support them through the lifespan.
Specific programs like early intervention, special education, adulthood transition, and adult employment are now staples of disability provider services.
So yes, in many ways we have made important strides a quarter century after the establishment of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. But for those of us who work on the forefront of special needs care, we are all too aware of the challenges ahead to retain the accomplishments of past decades, and the fight for more advances.
Most schools are not equipped to provide students who have special needs with an engaging and enriching educational environment. School districts across the country are faced with shrinking budgets, and sometimes they complain about special education mandates. Jawonio is proud to offer the highest quality education services nurturing children as young as 18 months all the way into adulthood. Programs like the Jawonio Early Childhood Education Center, Special Education Preschool, Jawonio School Age Care, Transition Planning, and Summer Education Programs all provide outstanding, compassionate, and enriching education by dedicated and professional staff. Maintaining our education programs, and specifically our Early Childhood Educations services, is our priority this spring in coordination with our annual Kidz Express event, and we hope you will join us.
Taxpayer-funded programs for people with disabilities, always under pressure, are more at risk in today’s economic environment. Discussions at all levels of government threaten the advances made during the past 25 years. The New York State budget is in its final stages and it is still unclear whether there will be continued funding for Jawonio. Our Assembly members recently proposed a 2% Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for our human service workers – who work hard, long hours, and have gone without a raise since 2008. That is a great start. Now we must urge Governor Cuomo to fulfill his promise to provide funding for disability service providers including Jawonio. Please, join Jawonio’s NYS budget advocacy efforts.
The idea that individuals with developmental disabilities can become productive members of the workforce is still new to many people and is perhaps the single biggest barrier to shattering misperceptions. From a business perspective there are so many incentives to hiring people with special needs, and now a new petition from Sen. David Carlucci adds another: InspireNY is a bold plan that will give a tax credit to any employer in the state that hires individuals who have a developmental disability who are either unemployed or a current employee of a sheltered workshop. Jawonio Businesses – Clean by Steam, Ebiz Docs, the Jawonio Cleaning Company, and the Jawonio Work Center in Rockland County; and our employment training services – have helped hundreds of people with special needs find meaningful employment and achieve greater independence. Please sign the InspireNY petition today to continue job opportunities for our community in Rockland County and statewide.