Dear Friends & Colleagues,
As we celebrate the 33rd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I am excited to share that we’ve officially launched a new Anti-Stigma campaign called “Look Beyond My Developmental Disability.” The campaign was unveiled today at a special ceremony held at the Empire State Plaza’s Concourse in Albany. The “Look Beyond” anti-stigma campaign was spurred by legislation Governor Hochul signed in 2022 directing OPWDD to develop and implement a public awareness campaign that combats discrimination, stigma and stereotyping of people with developmental disabilities.
This campaign is the culmination of months of collaboration and input from a diverse group of stakeholders who came together with one shared purpose: to develop a campaign to fight unfair stereotyping and discrimination that people with developmental disabilities still face daily. The campaign message confirms what should be obvious - that people with developmental disabilities are more than their disabilities. Like all of us, they are many things - friends, neighbors, family members, students, and customers.
You can see the campaign and learn more about how you can participate and help amplify its important message by sharing the “Look Beyond” resources on the OPWDD website: opwdd.ny.gov/LookBeyond. If you are in Albany or will be traveling to Albany before the end of August, I encourage you to visit our exhibit that will remain on display in the Concourse. The exhibit begins with the horrific story of how people with developmental disabilities were housed at the Willowbrook State School, the triumph of the school’s eventual closing, and the steady progress toward community inclusion that’s been made to date. We are grateful to each focus group member who generously shared their personal experiences and helped hone the messaging of this campaign. We are also thankful to the legislators who envisioned an anti-stigma campaign and Governor Hochul, who signed the bill into law and empowered us to create it.
The Look Beyond campaign will be a year-long effort using public forums, social and mass media, the Internet, radio, and print advertising to educate the public about developmental disabilities and highlight the positive ways people with developmental disabilities contribute to their state and their communities. We hope you’ll join us in promoting and embracing it as your own. Working together, alongside people with developmental disabilities, we can and will eliminate the stigmas they experience so that they can be afforded the dignity, respect, and opportunities they so deserve.
Kerri E. Neifeld