Collage of people with developmental disabilities of different background, abilities, talents and professions.
March 4, 2024

Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM), and I urge all New Yorkers to focus this month on empowering people with developmental disabilities to pursue their goals.

This year’s National DDAM theme is "A World of Opportunities," and it aligns with our ultimate vision: to create a world where people with developmental disabilities have the same opportunities as people without disabilities. We envision a world where every person is empowered to advocate for themself and be who they truly are.

This month, we are excited to release three sets of videos focusing on empowerment. In “The Art of Advocacy” video, you’ll hear from self-advocates who are proud to speak up and tell us what advocacy means to them and what they hope the future of advocacy will hold. In our new “Look Beyond” series of videos, you’ll learn how some people with developmental disabilities choose to define themselves and how they want others to see them. Lastly, in our “Sexuality and People With Developmental Disabilities” series of videos, you will hear directly from people with developmental disabilities about the importance of open dialogue, access to information and resources, and connecting people to the community as the foundation to developing more intimate and meaningful relationships and supporting them in their sexual self-advocacy. This last series of videos was developed in collaboration with the training company Elevatus, the Self Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) and the filmmaker, the University of Minnesota. The videos will soon be followed up with an online toolkit that will further assist self-advocates, professionals, and family members in supporting people with developmental disabilities in their relationships and sexuality.

When we unveiled our “Look Beyond My Developmental Disability” anti-stigma campaign last year, we were struck by the number of people who wanted to tell us who they were by sharing their unique “I Am” messages. This month, we’re giving people another opportunity to share their own “I Am” messages. You can participate by sending a photo of yourself to [email protected] and then fill in the blank after the words “I Am.”  You may see yourself featured on our website or social media channels.  You can also share your “I Am” message on your own social media pages. You can tag us @Nysopwdd and use the hashtags #LookBeyond and #DDAM2024 if you’d like us to “like” or “share” your message.

As we celebrate DDAM and explore this year’s theme, we are reminded that self-advocacy – telling people who you are and what you need - opens the door to more opportunities. I hope you’ll join me this month and reaffirm that people with developmental disabilities are friends, spouses, coworkers, parents, neighbors and voters. Above all, they are people. Join us this month in a World of Opportunities that includes all people.

Sincerely,Kerri E. Neifeld Commissioner

You can read more about the national DDAM campaign headed by the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities here.