Advocates "March" for developmental disability awareness

Published: Mar. 6, 2020 at 6:16 PM EST
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“Individuals with disabilities have been fighting for years for equal rights, to be represented in a way that everyone else is represented in the community." Those are the words of Dr. Kevin Davis, the superintendent of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities. He and the Board work year round to promote developmental disability awareness, but March is the month dedicated to developmental disability awareness across the nation.

The Board of Developmental Disabilities has held a parade every March for the last three years in honor of developmental disability awareness month. The Board calls it "The Annual March for Disability Awareness."

“We start here at baker center and we usually have about 100 or 150 people show up with signs and banners and signs supporting individuals with disabilities,” said Davis.

Among those dozens of people is William Peacock, who elected officials call a ‘Champion’ of the disability awareness movement in Athens. He says the County Board does a lot of good for people with developmental disabilities.

‘It’s good that the County Board and people with developmental disabilities can share goals together and help these young people become advocates in the future,’ said Peacock.

Many of the young people attending the march are students at the Board of DD’s Beacon School.

“A lot of my students had a lot of fun making these signs today, talking about the disability they have, talking about their strengths and their weaknesses. Just kind of helping them learn to advocate for themselves and then letting the community know we’re here and we’re ready to be a part of your community,” said Samantha Dunlap, a Young Adult instructor at Beacon School.

As young people learn to advocate, others show the community how they already participate.

“I use a pencil to draw from either pictures or magazines and after I do it from the pencil, I do the painting and I do it calmly and relaxed. And I call it ‘perfect timing,” said Scott Brooks, an artist with Passion Works.

State Representative Jay Edwards attended the march. He says the communities he represents work to include everyone.

‘We’re taking things in context of how can we make this accessible to everyone?” said Jay Edwards. “If someone’s in a wheelchair, if someone uses a walker, if someone has certain things, how can we make this accessible to anyone? It’s that way of thinking – and I don’t think every community is that way-- this community is very special in that every time a project comes up, it is how do we include everybody?” Edwards said.

For Davis and the Board, advocacy is a year-round effort.

“But for us, we wish there wasn’t even a need for a disability awareness month. To us, all twelve months are disability awareness month, that’s what our job is and that’s what we do,’ said Davis.