Thank you for celebrating Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month with us! Throughout the month of March, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD), in partnership with Texas AgriLife Extension Service (AgriLife), asked Texans to help create more inclusive communities across the state by connecting with and learning more about their neighbors with DD. We are proud to report that individuals, groups, and communities across the state stepped up to advocate for positive policy change; share their COVID-19 experiences to help inform decision-makers about access to critical resources, including vaccines; proclaim DD awareness a priority for their cities; connect with TCDD’s Regional Coordinators to learn how to develop more inclusive programming; and more. Below are some of the many highlights from DD Awareness Month 2021.
Throughout Texas, DD Awareness Month was recognized in local communities. Marshall Mayor Terri Brown declared March as DD Awareness Month for the city, adopting the Texas state proclamation issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. Additionally, news of DD Awareness Month and the DD experience during COVID-19 was covered by local and regional media outlets across the state. Participating news outlets included Community Impact, Marshall News Messenger, Corsicana Daily Sun, Newsbreak, Patch, and The Eagle in Bryan/College Station.
To celebrate DD Awareness Month, AgriLife agents participated in a bingo game to complete initiatives in support of DD awareness in AgriLife county communities. The game highlighted how Texans with disabilities, their families, and the professionals who serve them are a prime audience for AgriLife’s research-based education. Additionally, Dr. Shelby Vaughn, TCDD’s Regional Coordinator for Central Texas, created an inclusive checklist and training that allowed AgriLife staff to explore elements of various learning environments and strategies to address accessibility barriers in programming.
Louraiseal McDonald, Harrison County AgriLife agent, went above and beyond in completing DD awareness activities last month, achieving a “blackout” in DD Awareness Bingo. McDonald submitted Gov. Abbott’s DD Awareness Month proclamation during the Marshall City Council meeting in March. She also submitted the proclamation to a Harrison County Commissioners Court meeting, where the proclamation was approved. And, in adopting inclusive practices through her relationship with Community Healthcore, an agency that offers services for young adults with DD throughout East Texas, McDonald further illustrated how partnerships between AgriLife and TCDD are vital to reaching rural and underserved populations with disabilities.
TCDD is dedicated to expanding knowledge and resources related to Texans with DD. Last month, more than 200 community members, disability advocates, and lawmakers attended TCDD’s Disability Policy Academies on the topics of “DD Experience in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Developing Responsive Public Policy” and “Plugging the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students with DD.”
TCDD shared the transformative work of its grantees through social media spotlights. TCDD will continue to feature monthly stories that raise awareness of the diverse, creative, and collaborative work taking root in communities across Texas to increase inclusion and resources for people with DD. In March, spotlights included: Texas Tech University’s Project TEDD (Training Educators in Dual Diagnosis), which provides training for educators who work with students dually diagnosed with DD and mental health conditions; Literacy United’s Reading For All project that helps adults with DD improve their literacy skills; The Texas State Independent Living Council’s Transportation Works, which has coordinated annual summits on alternative transportation needs and barriers; and, West Central Texas Regional Foundation’s leadership and advocacy training for people with DD in rural communities.
TCDD shared accessibility considerations for COVID-19 vaccine clinic providers and is keeping an updated list of COVID-19 resources on its website. Dr. Beth Stalvey, TCDD’s executive director, participated in Austin PBS’s televised and livestreamed program “ATX Together: Vaccinating Central Texas” to discuss the need for more inclusive and accessible COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Watch the full episode.
Finally, TCDD launched its third Texas COVID-19 Stories survey initiative to gauge how the pandemic is continuing to affect people with DD, their families, and caregivers. The survey will help TCDD learn more about vaccine experiences and access to resources. The survey is open through April 30, 2021, and insights gathered will be used to help inform policymakers and community leaders.
DD Awareness Month 2021 has ended, but our work is far from over. We invite you to stay involved and join us in creating more inclusive communities 365 days a year.
Here are just a few ways to get started:
Every action matters. Together, we can create real positive change.
Read Gov. Abbott’s DD Awareness Month proclamation and learn more about TCDD’s initiatives here.