On February 26, 1987, President Ronald Reagan officially declared Proclamation 5613, making March National Disabilities Awareness Month. The proclamation called for people to provide understanding, encouragement, and opportunities to help persons with disabilities to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Everyone wants, and deserves, to enjoy life, feel productive and secure. But in March, we take extra steps to raise awareness about the supports and rights of the people with disabilities and to celebrate their contributions to our communities and society as a whole!
This class of disabilities can refer to impairments in learning and behavior, such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and impairments in physical and/or intellectual functioning such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Down syndrome. The campaign seeks to raise awareness about including people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. It also creates awareness of the difficulties that people with disabilities still face in fitting into the communities in which they live.
All individuals, agencies, and organizations supportive of people with disabilities are encouraged to observe the month of March with appropriate observances and activities directed toward increasing public awareness of the contributions and the potential of Americans with disabilities.
Before the 19th century, people with developmental disabilities were treated violently and lived in poor, unhygienic environments. Many were ‘passed on,’ a practice of carting off people to be dropped in another town. In the mid-1850s, more awareness about developmental disabilities spread in this century both in England and in the U.S. Custodial institutions started being established by the end of the century, which essentially segregated pupils from the rest of the community. It was only after the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1970s and 1980s that Ronald Reagan declared March the month for National Developmental Disabilities Awareness in 1987.