Best Laid Plans
March was supposed to be different.
It was supposed to be a celebration of people with developmental disabilities living, learning, working and playing in their communities just like their friends and neighbors.
It started out well enough as self-advocates gathered at the Ohio Statehouse to share their stories and meet with local legislators as part of DD Awareness & Advocacy Day.
Locally, we even managed to get together with Bill, Quinten, Madison, Braxton and their families to thank them for being part of our 2020 DD Awareness billboard campaign.
Then COVID19 happened, and a month that was to be full of fun events and celebrations turned into a month of cancellations and contradictions.
The Problem with Social Distancing
The irony of the coronavirus leading to social distancing during National DD Awareness Month may not immediately be apparent to everyone.
Decades of state and federal legislation sparked by civil rights movements have led to many legal changes for people with disabilities over the years. It was not so long ago that people with disabilities were used to living in isolation.
Creating and enforcing laws is one thing. Changing minds, perceptions, attitudes and understanding is another. This is one of the reasons a monthlong celebration of intentional awareness is so important. It’s an opportunity to promote understanding and acceptance. A chance to focus on inclusion and contributions rather than differences.
Encouraging people to stay home during a month in which we are supposed to be celebrating community inclusion is in direct conflict with everything we’ve been working towards.
Encouraging people not to go to work after years of striving to open doors of opportunity for employment is hard.
Asking family members not to visit is heartbreaking.
We miss our friends. We miss our routines. Yet while the month of March did not go as planned, there were many bright spots and unexpected surprises.
The providers who support people on a daily basis have been amazing and extremely prepared for this crisis no one could have predicted.
Our Early Intervention staff have had the opportunity to experiment and become comfortable with virtual visits. We’ve had great feedback from parents who have been open to receiving this form of coaching. This use of technology has been wonderful in allowing us to continue to support families in the progression of their child’s development during this crisis.
The Service & Support Administrators (SSAs) who coordinate services for adults have also stepped up with their use of technology to ensure social distancing doesn’t become social isolation.
Stories of creativity, support and selflessness are all around us, and it is clear in this time of vulnerability and fear, the one thing that remains strong is CommUNITY.