There are people who contribute to the world around them each and every day and it’s good to stop and recognize this every once in awhile. That’s what Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, observed every March, is designed to do - call attention to how people with disabilities are using their talents and abilities.
Ability@Work is the 2014 awareness theme and there are examples of ability at work all around us. From the man with Down syndrome, who is on the job helping to maximize his employer’s profits, to the woman with cerebral palsy, who volunteers at the local food bank, ability is at work in both places. It’s also at work in the youngster with autism who helps his Boy Scout troop collect canned goods for needy families and the teenage girl who uses a wheelchair and plays cymbals in the high school band. That’s Ability @ Work, too.
In addition, the circle of support is at work providing access to what people with disabilities want out of life. Everyone wants to be valued, included, and be given opportunities to use their talents in meaningful ways. Instead of a new job “program,” people want a job, clear and simple. Instead of “participating” in the community, they want to be in the fabric of the community – working, living, learning, and volunteering alongside everyone else.
As the year unfolds, you will be hearing about Employment First, an initiative that makes competitive employment the preferred outcome for people with developmental disabilities. This is a national movement that gained momentum when Governor Kasich signed the Employment First Executive Order in March 2012, making Ohio one of 26 states with an official Employment First policy or legislation.
With policy and partnerships now in place between schools, county boards of developmental disabilities, vocational rehabilitation agencies and others, we embark on a journey to discover each person’s interests and talents, especially young adults, and how they can use them to benefit potential employers. We are also engaging businesses and sharing information on how capable workers with disabilities are and the benefits of bringing them on board.
We believe that every person should have opportunities to use what they have to improve their lives and enrich the world around them. When people of all abilities come together, we learn to appreciate one another and this strengthens the communities in which we live.
Stephen L. Williams is Superintendent of the Belmont, Harrison and Noble county boards of developmental disabilities, also known as the BHN Alliance. To learn more, log onto the Belmont County Board’s website at; the Harrison County website at; or the Noble County Board’s site,